The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 28, 2005


Artwork sets stage for Chinese cultural celebration

Chiao Bin Huang performed a ribbon dance as part of the Silk Road Project with Yo Yo Ma at the Peabody Essex Museum in January 2004. (Courtesy Photo)

This is the first in a series of three articles about the Chinese tradition in Carlisle today. Events sponsored by the Carlisle Cultural Council will celebrate the Chinese New Year in February.

Multi-faceted artist Chiao Bin Huang will play a key role in engaging members of the Carlisle community with Chinese folk art from now until the end of February. Huang's acclaimed paper-cutting work currently illuminates the walls of the Gleason Library. Next weekend the professional dancer/choreographer will lead an hour-long performance at the Carlisle Public School in celebration of the Chinese New Year (see attached schedule of events).

"Most of my artworks were completed a few years ago," says Huang. "The most recent work was 'Double Happiness.'" She designed that paper-cutting piece as a visiting artist to cellist Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road residency project at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. Huang's colorful works vary in size from 8x10 to 34x40. Although the originals are not for sale, the artist will take orders for replications with 20% of the proceeds benefiting the Gleason Library. The artist sells the pieces framed, but clients can specify the type of frame.

More recent paper-cutting designs on display include pieces from seventh-graders at the Carlisle Public School. Huang's daughter, May Chang, a member of the class, introduced a program to teach classmates the ancient Chinese art of paper-cutting.

Life as an artist in Taiwan

Chiao Bin Huang holds up lanterns she created using Chinese red envelopes. Children receive "lucky money" in the envelopes from their parents and grandparents to celebrate the Chinese New Year. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

Born in Tai Pei, Huang grew up in an atypical family that encouraged children to love and pursue careers in art. Her father was a professional photographer in the magazine market. Her mother worked for the government at the airport. They still live in Taiwan. Huang, the eldest, has a younger brother who draws in Toyko, and two younger sisters, one a singer and the other one in finance, who both live in Taiwan.

"I was lucky because I grew up in a family that encouraged us to develop our interests," says Huang. She recalls her parents had a passion for art and music, but notes, "In their generation it was very hard to go to art school. So they decided to develop our interests and see if any one of us had any kind of talent." The three girls started to dance at a young age, although Huang was the only one that pursued it professionally. She took her first dance class at the age of seven, and started with paper-cutting in grade five, about the time she began studying English in school.

Huang earned her undergraduate degree in dance at the Chinese Cultural University in Taiwan in 1988. While trained in traditional Chinese and classical dance, Huang excelled in modern dance as well, and specialized in choreography. She then toured the world as part of a Chinese Youth Goodwill Mission troupe.

"I saw there was a bigger world out there with more challenges," says Huang. She visited the U.S. several times as a dancer before coming to Boston to obtain a master's degree in Performing Arts at Emerson College in 1992. Her career as a professional dancer and choreographer spans 20 years.

One place she has not visited is mainland China, where she was not permitted to go there when she lived in Taiwan. Although now she could go there if she wanted, she finds her life with three children very full in Carlisle. But she does note that many family and friends in Taiwan have visited China.

"We are all originally from mainland China," says Huang. "My husband's father is from China. They all go back to look for their relatives but I think it's just a big disappointment. Everything was destroyed, and nobody knows each other." The artists noted that the exercise to find one's ancestry and learn about one's history is extremely important to the Chinese.

Huang moved to Carlisle six years ago with her husband, Yih Ping Chang. With a degree from M.I.T, he works as an architect, but Huang quickly noted he has a strong artistic side and pointed to the many paintings that decorate their walls. The couple has three children: daughter May is 14 and in the seventh grade, daughter Deedy is in kindergarten, and son Princeton attends pre-school.

At first Huang was very involved with a theatre group at Emerson, but in caring for May, a special needs student, she quickly realized she needed to spend more time at home. So, she began to freelance and teach children's classes. She has conducted Chinese and modern dance workshops as well as classes in paper arts in many area towns. Huang includes also teaches Chinese language to private students locally.

Huang's dance workshops include a brief history of the Chinese ribbon dance, demonstration of choreography, explanations of the differences between western and eastern dance, introduction to costumes, and a dance lesson. The children learn how to manipulate the ribbons as a means of self-expression. The Chinese ribbon dance began in the Han dynasty (206 B.C. - 420 A.D.), but became extremely popular in the Tang dynasty (589 - 907 A.D.). Based on legend, the ribbon in the dance represents how a man named Hsiang Po used his sleeve to block successfully the sword of someone trying to kill the Han emperor.

Huang has adapted her paper cutting class to include elements of origami. Many of the children, exposed mainly to western forms of culture, are unfamiliar with Chinese art. Huang recalls her own enthusiasm when she first learned paper-cutting as a middle school student and says she is "honored" to pass this technique on to other children. The Carlisle community will see the opportunity to view the artist's beautiful works at the library and view her dances at the Chinese New Year celebration. Town residents should find it an honor to count the talented Huang among our residents.

Carlisle Cultural Council Celebrates Chinese New Year

Year of the Rooster (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

The Chinese New Year will begin on February 9. It is The Year of the Rooster, a very appropriate symbol of Carlisle considering the town's agricultural history in its bicentennial year.

To kick off the Chinese New Year, the Carlisle Cultural Council will feature a grand celebration for families on February 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Carlisle Public School. Prices are $10 for families; $4 for individuals.

The event will begin in the Corey auditorium with an hour-long presentation. The event will include performances by marching lion dancers, a chorus of singers, and three ribbon dance demonstrations. Afterwards attendees will go to the school cafeteria to try traditional food prepared by Shanghai Village of Arlington. Chopsticks will be available. Three craft stations in the cafeteria will include:

- Chinese character craft table (suitable for toddlers)
- Ink and Brush Calligraphy (targeted at older children)
- Chinese lanterns (families will make simple lanterns using red envelopes)

On Thursday, February 10, 7 p.m., Carlisle resident Lin Xu will present a slideshow and discussion of his travels to Tibet in the Hollis Room in the Gleason Public Library. Xu has traveled extensively across China, but will focus on his nature photography of the mountainous area. See next week's article in the Carlisle Mosquito for more detail.

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