After three years, the annual Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations returned to Birmingham to welcome in prosperity and love for the next twelve months, as well as celebrate different aspects of Chinese culture and dance. Over the weekend of the 21-22nd January, Birmingham Hippodrome and Chinese Festival Committees put on displays showcasing traditional dance and music, as well as stalls featuring calligraphy, face paint and artefacts around the city centre.
This was my first time attending this kind of event, and I was anticipating a showcase of Chinese culture in all its spectacle and glory, all sourced from the local community. On the first day (which was based in the Bullring Shopping Centre’s ground floor), the celebrations kicked off with a lion dance performance, accompanied by the drums of the Choi Lee Fut drummers. Following this were the Wan Sheng dance group, show tunes from the Beijing Arts Association, and kung fu show; all of these performances were repeated throughout the day, which allowed for people to see anything they had missed earlier in the day. And in between, organiser James Wong and Mi La (pictured in image banner above) were there to interact with the audience, asking who was born in the Year of the Rabbit (which is this year’s zodiac animal), and he was also accompanied for a time by MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 winner Dan Lee, who talked about his heritage and Chinese food stuffs, such as chicken feet (yes, really).
The second day of events took place in Southside, near the Hippodrome Theatre and Chinatown, on a large stage. The kind that you would see for musical outdoor concerts. Dan returned to introduce the acts, which largely remained the same from yesterday, albeit with the addition of some new faces. These came in the form of IVIX, a youth K-pop dance troupe, the Ling Long Qipao dance group, the Robin Hood Academy Choir, and the Birmingham Chinese Women’s association, who performed songs in Chinese. While some events were being repeated, I investigated the stalls, which had calligraphy classes for the children, traditional medicine, crystals and bracelets.
So, what did I think of the performances that celebrated the 2023 Lunar New Year, as a first-time attendee? Well, the Chinese traditional dancers were my favourite – their costumes and designs were enticing and brought the cultural aspect of the performance to life, along with their use of the fan as an extension of themselves in their performance. Additionally, the dancers of IVIX also brought a modern element to the performance line-up, using elements of hip-hop, street and modern contemporary to deliver something so in sync, they could have passed as professional dancers. Put all the performances together and you have a varied, entertaining show for all ages.