Over the Weekend: 1/25-1/27

The line between so-called high art and low art is largely artificial, and nowhere is this more ably demonstrated than on a Twin Cities weekend.

Take the past three days for example. Friday's show by local favorite Dosh at Triple Rock stretched into the wee hours, with three openers warming the crowd up for his forward-thinking electronic blend. Not feeling the modern music? Classic Chinese music and more hit St. Paul's Winter Carnival during the Ha Family's Chinese New Year performance. Acrobats, dances and more were on display to go along with the standard cold-weather entertainment.
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St. Paul's Winter Carnival is in full swing. Image by James Tran.

If musical innovation and centuries-old celebratory arts didn't pique your interest -- and golf on top of frozen White Bear Lake seemed a little too genteel, or frostbite-inducing, or both -- there was always the wrestling show at First Avenue. Billed "Anarchy Rules," the choreographed violence wasn't highbrow, but featured highspots and a split brow or two.

On the topic of the upcoming flippage of the lunar calendar, newly-installed Web intern Andy Mannix hit the University of Minnesota's Chinese New Year celebration and brought back the following report:

CHINESE NEW YEAR: RINGING IN THE RAT AT U OF M

Screw Times Square. The rhythmic maneuvers of the Lion Dance at the Chinese New Year celebration last night alone were enough to put Carson Daly to shame.

Just under 500 people piled into the Great Hall in Coffman Memorial Union on the University of Minnesota campus to help ring in the Year of the Rat. A couple weeks early, sure, but who's keeping track?

The night started out traditionally, with a family of percussionists providing just the right noise for two guys in a red and gold lion costume (with some pretty impressive acrobatic skills) to groove to. Next up came an old folk song titled “Wangchunfeng” performed by pianist Kai-Li Cheng and violinists Hsuan-Wen Lin and Yinna Wang, followed by choreographed dancing from the Chinese American Association of Minnesota Dance Theater. So far, the events, set to ambient red lighting and extravagant decorations, would be enough to make one briefly mistake the room for a party in East Asia – save for the portraits of U of M fossils and heroes lining the walls.

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Somebody's wishing it was the Year of the Rock Star at this point. Photo by Andy Mannix.

Later in the night, they mixed things up with a combination of customary and contemporary Chinese music, including original songs by artist Vivian. And if the music and dancing weren't enough, clever banter and strange recurring homages to ‘N Sync – including a brief tribute to Justin Timberlake – from MCs Jimmy Haung and Catherine Wang seemed to keep everyone entertained.

Finally, to make the night complete, somebody in a full-body rat costume that looked like the mascot for some unfortunately named high school football team was given the task of handing out trivia prizes. Maybe it was the weight of the costume, but this rodent appeared to have roughly the same enthusiasm for the job as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Oh well, the 3-year-old girl sitting next to me seemed to get a kick out of it.

All things considered, people went home smiling. And I am personally feeling better educated and more prepared for February 7th – the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
-- Andy Mannix

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