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Boston Chinese Drum Troupe: a spiritual home for overseas Chinese

27 Mar

The moment Manlin Luo expects most in a week is the Sunday afternoon, when she can escape from the full screen’s microarray and RNA-Seq data, fasten the drum around her waist, brandish the drumsticks decorated with red silk-ribbons, and enjoy the crisp and loud drums with her teammates.

Luo, who has lived in America for almost 22 years, joined Boston Chinese Drum Troupe when it was established in 2010. The drum troupe, which is founded by Miranda Yang, has enlarged from 10 people to 40. “The initial purpose of this troupe is to encourage everyone to do some exercise,” Yang said. “But every member studies very hard and contributes a lot. It has been an indispensable part of our lives.”

“When people don’t need to worry about their career and children’s education anymore, they come here looking for a sense of belonging,” Luo said.

Most Chinese people come to America for because they believe that they can live a better life and provide a promising future for their children. After the first generation of Chinese immigrant influx into California in 1840s, there has been over three million Chinese immigrating to America during the past 200 years .

“This is a land where you can realize your dream as long as you work hard,” said Frank Yang, Miranda’s younger brother and another old member of Boston Chinese Drum Troupe. Frank immigrated to Boston from Shanghai in 1980s. “But it usually takes time,” Frand said.

Miranda, who immigrated to Boston in 1991, gave up her dancing career which she has been loving since childhood, and worked for the family’s food business. “You don’t have time to do other things except work and language learning,” Miranda said. During the first few years, Miranda and her brothers usually did not stop working until midnight. When they came home, they used their hands to maw the lawn because they did not want the nosing sound of the mower to disturb the neighbors.

Luo, who works at MIT Biomicro Center, did not have time for entertainment either. “We didn’t have friends, money and information. It was like standing in a dark room. All you could do was trying and trying,” Luo said. “When we finally got success, we had been over 50s and some friends at our age even had left us.”

Instead of wasting more time, those Chinese immigrants decide to do something that they are really interested in.

In 2001 when the business became stable, Miranda decided to pick up her dancing career and joined the Melody Dance Troupe, which is organized by Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association. “I think it is time for me to move again,” Miranda said.

For Miranda, the happiness she gained from the success of business can never compare with that she gained from dancing. She not only insisted on dancing herself, but also hoped to encourage her families and friends to join this activity.

“The idea was to find a dance that doesn’t need too much dance skills, and as well as can represent Chinese traditional cultural,” Miranda said. “The waist drum is the perfect choice.”

Assisted by Miranda’s families and friends, the Boston Chinese Drum Troupe began to practice twice a week in February, 2010. Miranda works as the teacher, who combined the Kungfu elements with the drum dance. “It is not only a dance that helps shape your body, but also an exercise to strengthen your body,” Miranda said.

The troupe performed its first dance in Chinatown on May 1st 2010, and participated in many Chinese Spring Festival celebrations and the Boston First Night Parades. The success of the performance made Luo more confident. “I never thought I could have the opportunity to perform in front of the public at this age,” Luo said.

Another reason why the drum troupe is so attractive is due to its warm atmosphere. “Unlike most cultural groups, this is a group everyone contributes and nobody will feel left behind,” said Miranda.

Luo, whose strength is at Biology, learned to create a blog and then helped the troupe establish one which records every development of the group. Peimin Qi, who learned the ballroom dance before, leads members to do some Latin actions as warming up.

Every time when new members come, they will stand in the middle of the team and play with the other members, rather than observing alone on the side. Lily Ye, who has been in America for 10 years, came to the troupe the first time on Sunday. “I watched their dancing video at my friend’s home. It’s very exciting and I want to join in,” Ye said.

Ye did not expect to get her drum in the first class, let alone standing in the middle of the team and play with the others together. “I never played it before, but I have great interests in learning it,” Ye said. “I hope to perform with everybody as soon as possible.”

An Episode of their practice

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