Students celebrate Chinese culture with song and dance

Algonquin's first Dragon Boat Festival featured both traditional and modern performances
Photo: James Gray
Ruo Hong (left) and Shi Bei (right) of the Meng Wei Yue Opera perform "Eighteen Mile Farewell" (from the opera Butterfly Lovers).

An array of Chinese songs and dances graced the Observatory’s stage last Sunday as Algonquin hosted its first ever Dragon Boat Festival.

The event had no dragon boats, but rather, three hours of live stage performances, with free coffee and muffins. (Although it was not linked to the larger Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival; they’re both named for a traditional Chinese holiday.)

William Wang, a graduate student in project management, held the event with the help of the two clubs he leads: the Multicultural Exchange and Exhibition Club and the Algonquin College Chinese Alumni Association. He aims to organize a public event each term.

Some of the festival performers were Algonquin students, some were from other schools, and there were even professional singers from Ottawa’s Meng Wei Yue Opera, which specializes in the traditional genre of Yue opera.

Part of The AC Wolfman Band performing "The Ordinary Road" (by Pu Shu). L-R: Yang, Xing, Liu and Qu.
Part of The AC Wolfman Band performing "The Ordinary Road" (by Pu Shu). L-R: Yang, Xing, Liu and Qu. Photo credit: James Gray

Over 100 students signed up for the event, and about 50 were in the Observatory at any given time. Most were Chinese, but there were some from other cultures as well.

“I’m here to explore,” said Rohit Bhatt, an Algonquin student from India. “I’m in the singing profession, I love melodic arts … I love the singing and dancing combination. I find that very hard.”

The performances were mostly in traditional Chinese styles and vocal-focused. There were also some standalone dances, a few English songs (Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”), and a very energetic group dance to the K-pop song “Sage” (by OnlyOneOf). The latter seemed to surprise some opera singers, but they applauded nonetheless.

The Observatory was dim save for its kitchen and the orange-lit stage. Students chatted softly, often filmed each other and applauded heavily for each performance. The largest group of the afternoon was the eight-piece AC Wolfman Band, which performed two songs. Its members – Aiqing Liu, Dachuan Zhang, Dalu Xing, Elton Huang, Forrest Qu, Jojo Yang, Steven Luo and Ye Wen – are from several different schools, but came together through social media to perform at cultural events.

William Wang, president of the MEEX and ACCA, and organizer of Algonquin's Dragon Boat Festival event.
William Wang, president of the MEEX and ACCA, and organizer of Algonquin's Dragon Boat Festival event. Photo credit: James Gray

“We got huge support from William,” said Xing, the group’s founder and a civil engineering PhD student at the University of Ottawa. Huang commented that “every time [Wang] has an event, we’ll be invited.”

“I want to help people know each other more, understand each other more,” Wang said, “and cooperate together in building this country better.”

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