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Saint Paul's Chinese Dance Theater is ready to entertain as Lunar New Year celebrations begin

It’s a busy time for one of the oldest-run Chinese dance theaters in the region, the Chinese-American Association of Minnesota Chinese Dance Theater.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — In the Chinese Lunar New Year on Tuesday, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Generally, this will be a year for gaining back some strength and vitality after a hard-working and tiring year of the Ox. The tiger represents strength and helping others for the greater good.

There are celebrations all around the world for the Lunar New Year, including here in Minnesota. That means it’s a busy time for one of the oldest-run Chinese dance theaters in the region.

"I've been dancing for about six years here now," said Ariel Kirris, one of the young dancers with the Chinese-American Association of Minnesota Chinese Dance Theater in Saint Paul.

Beatrice Rothweiler is the co-chair of the CAAM Chinese Dance Theater. The theater is in its 30th year, and she said it brings a high-quality dance experience to audiences.

"And also bring them into the Chinese culture to really get behind the scenes, to really understand the depth and breadth of the culture," Rothweiler said.

Rothweiler said oftentimes, there's a story that's linked to a legend or a character that's key to the value system of the Chinese culture. By putting it to movement and music, you have a deeper appreciation.  

She said the experience of Chinese dance is different than western dance because it's very much rooted in experiences and values.

It's a culture steeped in dynamic and ever-evolving dance traditions that Kirris' mother, Arwin Chan, holds dear.

"It's a part of my heritage, it's a part of my culture and I want her to continue to expose this kind of culture," Chan said.

Chan can share with her daughter on stage. She is a dancer with the theater too. She said she loves the exercise it provides for her, but Chan also knows her years on the stage with her daughter are limited.

"Once in a while, we'll have the same opportunity to be in the same dance and I will be the background dancer and she will be the like, the dancer in the front and that's also a proud moment as a mom," Chan said.

As the curtains are just about to open for Lunar New Year, Kirris has one final message.

"Come watch me dance on the stage!" she said.

CAAM Chinese Dance Theater has several community events including the Timberwolves game halftime show Tuesday, a Minnesota Orchestra concert on Feb. 5, a performance at the Mall of America on Feb. 12 and 13, and an event at the Landmark Center on Feb. 20.

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