University City

Troupe brings Chinese culture to the stage

Mykayla Long spends most of her week juggling the same responsibilities as other 15-year-olds - homework, chores and other jobs.

However, life takes an even faster pace as the Chinese New Year approaches.

Mykayla and the 16 other girls in the Little Lotus Troupe will travel around Charlotte and the region to perform at local Chinese and Lunar New Year events.

The Lunar New Year begins Monday. The girls will be on stage five times before the month is over, carrying traditional red lanterns for luck and wealth and dancing with fans draped with bright silks, the textile synonymous with China.

Yet, the troupe's members are the face of a nation that was only briefly their home.

Most of the girls, ages 5 to 16, were born in China and adopted by Americans.

Their performances are intended to help them stay connected with their homeland.

Within the troupe the girls also have found a place where blended families are accepted. Most of theirs include American parents and Chinese children.

The troupe meets for practice on Fridays at the Asian Library, on Baxter Street in midtown Charlotte.

"They're not in a minority in that group," said Jenny Long, Mykayla's mother. They are the majority."

The troupe has been bringing Chinese culture to Charlotte since 2004, when founder and choreographer XiaoSong He agreed to expand a weeklong Chinese culture summer camp that had become popular with children and parents.

The troupe has performed for eight years at UNC Charlotte's International Festival, an annual September celebration of world culture and diversity in the Charlotte region.

They also will perform Monday at Advent Lutheran Church in University City during a celebration by Families with Children From China.

The new year festival is one of the biggest celebrations in China and other countries where the nation of more than 1 billion people has strong influence.

In China the 15-day celebration is also known as spring festival and marks the end of winter.

He wanted to introduce girls to the festival traditions that she has longed for since leaving her native Shanghai.

"In their new home in Charlotte, I want the festival to be a part of their lives," said He. "Instead of being passive participants, we are active participants. We contribute."