Chinese New Year party puts on the dog

Professor contributes “spicy” Szechuan songs

karen herland

Dancers from the Montreal Center of Chinese Culture and Arts perform a Mongolian dance at Chinatown’s Restaurant Ruby Rouge for over 300 Concordians and their families.

Photo by kate hutchinson

According to Chinese astrology, those born in the Year of the Dog are well suited to management positions. So it is entirely appropriate that a dinner to welcome that year, hosted by the Commerce Graduate Students’ Association (CGSA), was the biggest one yet.

More than 300 people enjoyed a huge meal and entertainment at the Restaurant Ruby Rouge on Feb. 3. This is the fifth year for the unoffical event.

“This is a tradition that keeps growing and growing,” John Molson School of Business Dean Jerry Tomberlin said early in the evening.

Initially, the event attracted 80 MBA students, many of them celebrating a tradition far from home. However, the dinner has expanded to include faculty and staff from the JMSB and beyond.

“Dr. Suen [Ching Suen of CENPARMI] reserved two tables and Dr. Clement Lam [Chair of Computer Science] brought his whole family,” said organizer Cynthia Law, JMSB Manager of Graduate Administration/Enrollment.

She added that it is rare for such an informal event to attract participation across faculties: “It really reflects a community spirit.”
Law taught Dean Tomberlin how to say “Happy New Year” and “How are you?” in Mandarin, much to the delight of the audience. The evening was hosted in English, French and Mandarin.

Law coordinated the restaurant, meal and entertainment for the event with the help of Mary Genova, Director of the Centre for Instructional Technology.

CGSA members provided funds to cover some costs for the entertainers and pitched in with ticket sales for the evening. They were so successful that there was a waiting list for those hoping to score unused tickets. Raffle prizes were also distributed throughout the evening.

“This is our biggest event of the year,” said Errol Lobo, Vice-President Events for the CGSA. “People love Chinese culture and these are perfomances you don’t see very often.”

Law relied on contacts in the Montreal Center of Chinese Culture and Arts to provide performers. “Last year, we were supposed to get eight dancers and only four actually made it.” This year, one performer was tracked down at 2 p.m. on the afternoon of the dinner.

The evening began with speeches and a game of “draw the tail on the dog,” a variation on the more typical donkey-tail pinning contest.

Performers continued throughout the 10-course meal. Those at the back of the hall watched the show on a big screen TV.

In addition to the dancers, Law had another surprise in store. While at another new year’s celebration, she was impressed with a singer who performed traditional Chinese folk songs.

She was delighted to discover that he was Dr. Shiping Ma, of the Exercise Science Department, and immediately convinced him to perform at the dinner, despite his reluctance to perform for academic colleagues.

Although he began by saying that his real expertise lay in research on muscle and bone injury, Ma delighted the crowd with his rendition of Szechuan songs which he joked were as “spicy" as the food the region is famous for.

Exerecise Science Professor Shiping Ma takes a break from his research on muscle and bone injury to perform Szechuan folk songs at the fifth CGSA Chinese New Year dinner.

Photo by Kate Hutchinson

The final act was a bit of a departure from the more traditional performers. Never Surrender bills itself as “the greatest lip-synch band in the world.”

“I was not sure if it would work, but I saw them [at the Concordia Theatre Department’s fundraising cabaret] last October and thought they were hilarious,” Law said.

She slipped them a CD of pop hits recorded in Chinese so that they could prepare one song especially for the event. They proved to be the hit of the evening.

After the official performance ended, the evening continued with students, staff and faculty showing off their talents with the karaoke machine.