Confucius Institute Gala wows crowds


Students and faculty, young and old, Chinese and American experienced a whirlwind of sound, color and movement at tonight’s Confucius Institute Spring Gala.

Performers from Hangzhou Normal University, clad in brightly embellished traditional dress representing various parts of China, wowed the nearly 300 audience members in Van Meter Hall.

The gala, titled “An Oriental Monsoon,” represents the power of cooperation through the arts, Confucius Institute associate director Betty Yu said in an email.

“With the invitation of the Confucius Institute at WKU, the 26 Chinese performers come across the great Pacific Ocean and set foot on the campus of Western Kentucky University, with the hope that the performances will precipitate a joyful rainfall that will further promote understanding, friendship, and fraternity between Chinese and American people,” Yu said.

The artists displayed wide variety to Chinese dance, instrumental and acrobatic skill, including martial arts demonstrations, Thai dancing and folk songs.

Audience members held their breaths as the women floated across the stage with a stack of four delicate bowls on their heads. Martial artists energized the crowds with a mixture of swordplay and acrobatic tricks. A group of traditional musicians entranced guests with a well-known Chinese folk song.

Before the event, President Gary Ransdell welcomed guests, and brought his grandson, Walker, onstage with him to begin the show for a very special reason.

“I walked into the den this afternoon and he was playing on his iPad, and Miss Jenny his kindergarten teacher will be very proud to know this, he was looking up colors and learning how to pronounce colors in Chinese,” Ransdell said.

Walker’s teacher is recognized as one the 37 teachers working to teach Chinese in 14 school districts around Kentucky as a part of the institute’s coalition with the Hanban Chinese education ministry.

Political science and international affairs double-major Chase Thomas volunteered for part of the performance. On stage, two Hangzhou performers taught Thomas a portion of a courting dance, which he tried his best to recreate.

Thomas said his favorite performance was The Bowl Dance, but all were “spectacular.”

“Even though the performers might not have spoken that much English, you can tell they were having a really fun time,” he said. “I learned that there wasn’t one singular artistic tradition in China, that it’s made up of a variety of types.”

Louisville junior Elizabeth Gribbins said she thought the performances were impressive and each beautiful.

“I was invited to the gala because I went on the WKU performance tour last may in China,” Gribbins, a cellist, said. “I wanted to see the performers from some of the other universities.”

To those unable to attend, Gribbins said a cultural experience was missed.

“It was a wonderful show that helped enrich cultural understanding of Chinese art,” she said.