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London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

By Song Wei ( Updated: 2016-02-08 20:40

London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

The opening dance of the 2016 China-Britain Chinese New Year Extravaganza. [Photo by Song Wei/]

A grand show in central London is a perfect nostalgic recipe for overseas Chinese when the most important festival on the Chinese lunar calendar arrives.

The 2016 China-Britain Chinese New Year Extravaganza, an exciting performance of cultural spectacles featuring an array of songs and dances, took to the stage at Logan Hall on Sunday.

In the two-and-a-half hour show, around 1,000 spectators were treated to colorful and exhilarating programmes including a Chinese dragon dance, Chinese monkey dance, traditional Chinese dances, folk music and drama.

London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

Children in monkey costumes dance to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Feb 7, 2016. [Photo by Song Wei/]

Yang Zhuhua, an overseas Chinese who moved to Britain three years ago with her husband for work, attended the gala for the first time.

"It pretty much reminds of the good times back home when my family got together around the TV to watch the Spring Festival broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) after the dinner," Yang says.

Watching the annual Spring Festival gala broadcast has been a ritual in almost every household in China on Spring Festival Eve.

The extravaganza began at 4pm (GMT) just as the Chinese New Year bell rang in China (Greenwich Mean Time is eight hours behind Beijing), and "it is a natural follow-up of the Spring Festival Gala back in Beijing, which wraps up at midnight", Zhang Yuxia (whose English name is Connie Alexander), choreographer and chief director of the gala told China Daily.

London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

Popular Chinese TV series in 2015 - the Legend of Miyue – was choreographed into traditional Chinese dance. [Photo by Song Wei/]

Two sensational Chinese TV series in 2015 - Nirvana in Fire, or Langya Bang, and the Legend of Miyue - were choreographed into the traditional Chinese dances.

"I want this gala to be combination of Chinese traditional arts with popular trends in China," said Zhang.

The director, working as president of UK Chinese Dance & Culture Association, said from her years of traditional Chinese dance teaching experience, her British students wanted to know more about China today, not only traditional Chinese culture.

Language is the best tool to understand a culture and Zhang, who has been living in the UK for the past 24 years, upholds the importance of Chinese language learning.

"That's why short language programs in the form of Chinese drama are included in the show for the first time", Zhang said.

London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

The cast of the Chinese play The Typical Friend, wish the audience happy Chinese New Year. [Photo by Song Wei/]

The short play –The Typical Friend, unveiled common problems such as living costs and love issues that Chinese overseas students would usually have to face. Performed by the UK Students' Drama society, the drama cracked up the audience and won applause.

Vien Hutchins, a British man married to a Chinese woman, has been attending the gala for the past four years. Though being unable to understand most of the drama due to the language barrier, Vien said he enjoyed the Chinese dances and music. He thinks it's helpful for his two daughters, one is four and another 7, to hone their Chinese language skills.

"Both of my girls can speak Chinese, and I think this show could help them know more about Chinese culture, and definitely, we're not going to miss any of the annual extravaganzas in the coming years, " Vien said.

London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

Chinese singer Liu Li performs Hope in the Fields and The Nightingale from the East. [Photo by Song Wei/]

Themed "golden era", the gala marks the new era for Sino-UK relations following President Xi Jinping's state visit to the UK last year, according to the director.

The Mayor of Bury St. Edmunds, and seven mayors of London boroughs attended the event as special guests.

Two hundred performers from across the UK and foreign countries including Russia, India, Italy and France joined with different Chinese ethnic minority groups and local Chinese in the UK, students, and artistic performing groups, to create the evening of song and dance to welcome the Year of the Monkey.

First started in Feb 2013, it's the fourth China-Britain Chinese New Year Extravaganza in London. "There are praises, there are different voices…I am not doing this for money," Zhang says. "I want this gala to serve as a celebration gathering, and also a platform for the overseas Chinese in the UK to present their talents."

This year's event was organized by the UK Chinese Dance & Culture Association, UK-China Economics and Cultural Promotion Association and the Cross-Strait China Culture Communication Foundation.

London's Chinese New Year gala rings in Year of Monkey

Performers from the Phantom of the Opera sing during the 2016 China-Britain Chinese New Year Extravaganza, Feb 7, 2016. [Photo by Song Wei/]

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