Sunday, January 27, 2013

Arts & Extras: Young folk dancers to greet Year of the Snake at Taubman

Members of the Shaolin Dragons perform a Dragon and Lion dance during a celebration of the Chinese New Year at the Tabuman art museum in 2012.

The Roanoke Times | File 2012

Members of the Shaolin Dragons perform a Dragon and Lion dance during a celebration of the Chinese New Year at the Tabuman art museum in 2012.

Arts & Extras column

Mike Allen, arts and culture columnist

Mike Allen, arts columnist

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More than 70 families in the Roanoke Valley have adopted Chinese children, according to Pearl Fu, founder and director of Local Colors of Roanoke.

These families have longed for someone who could teach their adopted children the language, music and dance of their home country. Fu found an unlikely teacher - a 13-year-old student at North Cross School.

Liu Yang has been instructing her young pupils in Chinese folk dances. Though she's young herself, she has nine years of dance experience already. She's been meeting with the children and their parents on weekends to teach them for free, Fu said.

On Saturday at the Taubman Museum of Art, Liu, who performs under the name Lulu, will dance with about 10 of her students as part of the 2013 Chinese New Year celebration.

Technically, it's the Year of the Snake, but Fu doesn't like snakes. She joked that she's calling it the year of the "little dragon" instead.

The free event is intended to bring more people through the museum's doors. "We're doing the whole thing for them," Fu said. "It's such a wonderful facility."

Liu will also perform a Mongolian dance. Fu called her "very mature for her age."

The program also features a piano performance of a Chinese folk song by Annie Chen, a student from China attending Roanoke Catholic School. She's played piano for 13 years, starting when she was 4.

Fu said that it can be difficult to find Chinese classical musicians familiar with their native music, as many are trained to learn Western compositions.

Chinese language students in Roanoke College's modern language department, led by professor Rebecca Chang, will demonstrate Chinese folk songs, poetry, dance, riddles and even a fashion show. Roanoke Symphony Orchestra violinist Jane Wang and several of her students will also play traditional Chinese music.

Other acts include Floyd Ward School of Dance student Alaina Miller performing a number called "Wonton Boogie," and students from the Shaolin Dragons Martial Arts Academy on Williamson Road in Roanoke will open the proceedings with a Lion Dance.

The celebration will close with the performers leading the audience in singing a Chinese New Year song, so keep your lyric sheets handy.

The event starts at noon. For more information, call Fu at 904-2234, email or visit

Baseball history in Martinsville

Piedmont Arts at 215 Starling Ave. in Martinsville will celebrate Black History Month in February with an arts exhibition and a one-man play.

"We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball," a collection of 33 paintings and 13 sketches that artist and author Kadir Nelson created for a children's book of the same name, opens Saturday and will remain on display through March 30.

Nelson's paintings involved years of research, studying old photographs, interviewing former Negro League players and collecting sports equipment and uniforms.

He photographed himself wearing the uniforms in pursuit of creating accurate depictions. His art and words tell the story of how athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Willie Mays and the owners of the clubs they belonged to battled institutionalized racism and segregation to pursue their love of baseball.

Nelson's book won the 2009 Coretta Scott King Book Award and was named one of the Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2008 by The New York Times.

In conjunction with "We Are the Ship," Piedmont Arts will showcase airbrush paintings of vintage scenes from black American life by Axton artist Rupe Dalton.

Furthering the exploration of Negro League history, the art center will present "A Game Apart: Mike Wiley As Jackie Robinson" at 7 p.m. Feb. 11.

Roanoke native, playwright and actor Wiley, a 1991 Patrick Henry High School graduate who teaches at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will bring the legendary ballplayer to life in the play, and show the stark conditions he faced as a star on the field who was treated like a second-class citizen everywhere else.

Admission to "We Are the Ship" is free. Admission to "A Game Apart" is $15, students $10. For more information call 276-632-3221 or visit

New 'Serenity'

This past week the Roanoke Rescue Mission at 402 Second St. S.E. held a dedication for "Serenity," a new sculpture made from recycled materials by Roanoke artist David Wertz.

The sculpture stands in the John A. Sylvester-Johnson Plaza, named after the late husband of Rescue Mission CEO Joy Sylvester-Johnson. The longtime director of programs at the Christian-based charity, he died in May 2012.

"Serenity" resembles a winter tree made of metal parts. Wertz said he hopes the sculpture conveys a sense of freedom from constraints on imagination.

In a statement from the Rescue Mission, Joy Sylvester-Johnson said that Wertz captured her husband's vision of how recovery through Christian values works. "It's not always easy, clear or pretty, but if we keep focused on God's idea for our lives รข? it leads us upward beyond ourselves to another reality - closer to heaven."

For more information, call 343-7227 or visit

Play rescheduled

The free performance of Roanoke Children's Theatre's "Eric & Elliot" at Radford High School, postponed because of the Jan. 17 snowstorm, has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 22. For more information, call 239-3026.

On the Arts blog

The William King Museum in Abingdon is showcasing work by Roanoke artist Robert Sulkin through May 19, with a reception 6 p.m. Feb. 7. To learn more visit

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