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East meets West during Chinese New Year celebration

Kuang-Yu Fong, a member of Chinese Theatre Works,

Kuang-Yu Fong, a member of Chinese Theatre Works, performs a traditional Chinese dance with swords Sunday at the Freeport Memorial Library. (Jan. 30, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

Kuang-Yu Fong swayed with the music, gracefully circling her arms in wide arcs to show off her flowing white, silk sleeves.

As a series of soft twangs echoed out of a speaker at the Freeport Memorial Library on Sunday, all eyes in the packed room focused on the Chinese performance artist - until the CD she was using began to skip.

So Fong turned off the music and instead sang while she danced.

“In Chinese dance, every note is choreographed,” she said. “But I don’t even need the music. Instead I will sing for you.”

Fong, co-artistic director of the group Chinese Theatre Works, based in Long Island City, was performing for library patrons in honor of the Chinese New Year, which begins Feb. 3.

Fong and her fellow performers, dancer Junling Wang and musician Qian Ma, honored Chinese folk lore through song and dance, employing a range of traditional dance styles from across Chinese provinces. Fong also took the stage between each performance to teach the audience about the meanings of each song or dance and how it would be performed in China.

Ma played the guzheng, a large 21-string instrument she learned to play as a child, and among the operatic pieces she performed was also the crowd-pleaser “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Fong said the greatest difference between Eastern and Western theater is that in the United States, theater is adapted from the Greeks and is centered on dialogue. In China, she said, theater incorporates many types of performance art, including song, dance and acrobatics.

She said a professional performance artist in China typically trains for about eight years.

Fong said the tradition of song and dance has been passed down from generation to generation and is very specific to each province of China.

“Four or five hundred years ago, there were no DVDs, there was no video,” Fong told the audience. “We learned these dances generation to generation. I am very proud of this tradition because I still do it like my ancestors did.”

Check back later for a video from the performance.

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