"Dance of Spring"

Members of East Dream Chinese Dance Group perform in 2017 edition of the "Dance of Spring." The annual event, which features Chinese dance, folk music and martial arts returns to The LaSells Stewart Center Saturday night. 

The East Dream Chinese Dance Group is ringing in the 2019 Lunar New Year (the Year of the Pig) with its annual "Dance of Spring" performance on Saturday — and a number of guests will be on hand to help with the celebration.

The "Dance of Spring" performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at The LaSells Stewart Center on the Oregon State University campus. (See the accompanying box for details.)

This evening includes a variety of Chinese folk dance performances, complete with spectacular costumes from the East Dream Chinese Dance Group and its artistic director, Hong Li.

The evening also includes musical performances with traditional Chinese instruments, Chinese folk music, and martial arts. Guest performers include Penny Yang on the Cucurbit flute, a Chinese free reed wind instrument; Zhang Min on the gu zheng, an ancient Chinese stringed instrument invented more than 2,500 years ago; and singers Zhongqiu Zhang and Katie Smith.

This year, Li and other members of the troupe reached out to mid-valley choreographer and dance teacher Mishele Mennett to see if she could assist with the show. Mennett, who had worked with Li on last year's "Ten Tiny Dances" performance at the Majestic, was pleased to lend a hand — although she emphasized that much of her role involved contacting other dance troupes.

"They've been doing this for a while," Mennett said of the East Dream troupe. "I'm not making this up from scratch."

"What Hong Li was looking for were pieces from other cultures to celebrate diversity," she said.

So local troupes will perform dances from Mexico, Ireland, Hawaii, India, as well as hip-hop and salsa dances. Guest performers include Arpita Mukerjee, Halau Hula O Hawai’I, Alma Latina Folkloric Group, Brimhall Academy of Irish Dance, Downtown Dance Hip Hop Crew, OSU Cool Shoes, and the University of Oregon Wushu Club.

There's a practical reason for including those other troupes in the show, Mennett said: The members of the East Dream Chinese troupe need time to change their costumes between their dance numbers. "I've been watching the performances for a few years now, and I've never seen them use the same costumes twice," she said.

As for the show itself, Mennett promises that it doesn't include any "angst-filled artistic numbers. This is all about celebration."


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