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Performances for the Whole Family: Filling the master calendar with UMS events

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Part of the excitement of coming back to town at the end of summer is collecting all the calendars—Ann Arbor Public School’s holiday and half-day calendar, Huron High School’s band calendar, Clague Middle School’s orchestra calendar, King Elementary School’s PTO calendar, the crew calendar, the soccer calendar, the academic games calendar, University of Michigan’s football calendar, Washtenaw Community College Lifelong Learning calendar, Rec and Ed, Parks and Rec, etc.—whew!—and finally sitting down to map them all out onto one big master calendar in order to see what our year is going to look like.

My favorite calendar to pore over with the kids is the one from University Musical Society (UMS).

This year, the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary. As usual for an academic department, they have all sorts of lectures and films and special events and conferences planned. University of Michigan Museum of Art is supporting this celebration with a contemporary Chinese woodblock print exhibit. University Musical Society is supporting this celebration with an Asia performance series. I am excited.

When the UMS catalog arrives, the kids keep grabbing it away from one another. They dog-ear the pages that interest them. They recall other concerts and dance performances we have attended.

Little Brother is captivated by the photograph of the old woman and old man sitting in trashcans. What could that possibly be? (Gate Theatre of Dublin) How to explain Beckett’s “Endgame” and “Watt” to a seven year old?

Our pianist, Niu Niu, complains (again) that she likes playing piano but does not like watching piano, but when we begin discuss how the dazzling Yuja Wang recently rocked the Hollywood Bowl with her very short very tight very sexy orange dress, about which reviewer Mark Swed wrote: “Her dress Tuesday was so short and tight, that had there been any less of it, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult.” Oh, and her legendary speed, too. Now Niu Niu is convinced. Our first concert marked on the calendar.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan is my choice. I have already heard many Taiwanese American friends discussing how the choreography is inspired by Chinese calligraphy and classical landscape painting. Local Chinese calligraphers will be demonstrating and displaying their work before the performance to connect these two artforms.

Hao Hao wants to go see AnDa Union from Inner Mongolia. I thought it was because her great-grandfather was born in Inner Mongolia, but really it is because she remembers the Mongolian throat singers we once heard perform at the Ann Arbor District Library.

M is intrigued by the Chamber Ensemble of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra because she knows more about Chinese music than any of us, but the Ballet Preljocal looks amazing. An antithesis of Disney’s Snow White? It looks dark and grim and sexy and strange—irresistible for teenagers dressed all in black.

Now, big sigh, the tickets.

I was so grateful when UMS began their teen ticket program a few years ago, at last an affordable way to bring my teenagers to UMS programs. I was even more grateful when I was able to go with the children’s school field trips as a chaperone. This year, UMS is launching a new UMS “Kids Club” program for students in grades 3 to 12: “Two weeks before opening night, parents can purchase up to two kids’ tickets for $10 each with the purchase of an adult ticket for $20.”

Great! So now we can take the whole family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is an editor of IMDiversity.com Asian American Village, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog, Chicagoistheworld.org, PacificCitizen.org, InCultureParent.com, MulticulturalFamilia.com. She is on the Advisory Board of American Citizens for Justice. She team-teaches "Asian Pacific American History and the Law" at University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural arts and activism. Check out her website at franceskaihwawang.com, her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com, and she can be reached at fkwang888@gmail.com.
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