Lion-dragon parade in New Haven to herald Chinese New Year

Dragon paradeIn celebration of the Chinese New Year, the Yale-China Association is hosting a traditional lion-dragon dance parade in New Haven on Thursday, Feb. 2. The parade will begin at the corner of Church and Elm at 11:30 a.m., travel up Whitney Avenue and end at the Yale-China Office on the corner of Trumbull and Temple streets at 12:15 p.m.

The colorful and cacophonous line-dance parade, which ushers in the lunar Year of the Dragon, is a first for New Haven, according to Nancy Yao Maasbach, executive director of the Yale-China Association, which has organized the event in recognition of the association’s 111th anniversary.

The route of the lion-dragon parade reflects the growing presence of a Chinese community in the Elm City, says Maasbach, who notes that the procession will pass by New Haven’s burgeoning “Chinatown,” a cluster of East Asian retailers on Whitney Avenue, which includes the Great Wall of China buffet, a grocery store stocked with hard-to-find products from the East; the Naturegene herb shop with acupuncturist; and the Vietnamese noodle restaurant Pot-au-Pho.

The Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar Institute Dragon and Lion Dance Team, based in New York, will present the pageant, which has its roots in ancient Chinese folklore. The red dragon, held aloft on poles and skillfully manipulated by the dancers to simulate a slithering snake, symbolizes good luck. (People born in the Year of the Dragon are thought to be graced with a lifetime of good fortune.) The procession includes clanging cymbals, beating drums and occasionally firecrackers — which are believed to ward off bad luck and chase away whatever malevolent spirits might be lingering from the previous year. This tradition is closely allied with Chinese martial arts and acrobatics.

On the way to the Yale-China building, the troupe will stop at Phelps Triangle, the island park separating Whitney and Temple, to put on a show of the ancient martial art of Hung Gar Kung Fu.

Since the dawn of the last century, the Yale-China Association has been promoting understanding between the people of China and America through a variety of programs in health, education, arts, and public service. The private, non-profit organization currently is sponsoring programs in the fields of public health and nursing, legal education, English language instruction, American studies, and cultural exchange for Chinese and American students.  

To raise funds to support these efforts and to celebrate its 111 years of service, Yale-China is hosting a 1930s jazz-themed gala on the evening of Feb. 2. The Cheongsam Ball takes place at the New Haven Lawn Club, 6-10 p.m. Tickets are $111. Among the attractions at the ball are performances by the Half-Tones Jazz Band and renowned jazz singer Zhang Le; refreshments served Dim Sum style; an open bar; and a silent auction. One of the more generous items in the auction, reports Maasbach, is an “exceptionally effective” software program for learning Mandarin, developed by Yale graduate and entrepreneur David Topolewski.

For more information, visit www.yalechina.org.