Alumni

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Alexa

Alexa Tanoto

 

 When I first joined C4EO, I did not join to be a dancer, nor did I join to make myself more culturally aware. I joined to put on makeup, play dress up with the vibrantly colored and jingly costumes, have my picture taken and hang out with friends. What more could an eight year old girl ask for? It was dress up and play time rolled into one every Sunday. However, as the weeks went by during my first year dancing, rehearsal became less fun. Attending class eventually felt like a chore. I hardly understood the importance of punctuality or rehearsal; finding 10AM much too early for practice, I wandered in a fashionably twenty minutes late then halfheartedly worked through the warmup stretches after the teacher scolded me to stand up straight and stop admiring myself in the studio mirror. The only reason I put in as much word as I did during practice was for the sparkly butterfly sticker Bonnie gave us at the end of each excruciatingly long rehearsal. The product of my hard work? A whimsical interpretive dance done by a discombobulated monkey that didn’t know left from right during performances. But of course, I grew up, and the true meaning of being a part of C4EO dawned on me. It wasn’t for the sparkly headpieces or the pink eyeshadow; it was for the community and the skills I learned that no other organization or extracurricular activity could have taught me. It’s seeing the genuine smiles and faces of sheer delight from the audience that cannot be replaced. It’s about giving back to the community with a cultural approach that cannot be replicated. It’s about being a leader and being there for your fellow dancers when they need it the most. Growing up as in America, I was never fully exposed to the Chinese culture that my parents had grown up with. Although being Chinese was always something I identified with, the world I grew up with was mostly American – American food, American music, American dance, etc. But C4EO exposed me to traditional Chinese folk dances with delicate teacups to modern dances with vibrantly colored fans. As for the new and current dance student: Push yourself; a dance is only as good as you want it to be. Everyone can learn the dance steps and positions but how you go about it, and whether you choose to perfect it to the best of your ability is in your hands. Although we only practice once a week, the amount I have learned and experienced is infinite. From odd dance steps to punctuality, from finesse with an eyeshadow palette to leadership and responsibility, from changing wardrobe at the speed of light to compassion. The list goes on and on but I can say one thing – C4EO has opened my eyes to a world of Chinese culture, given me inspirational people to look up to and unforgettable lifelong friends.

 

Mitchell

  Mitchell Yu

 

2014 C4EO Scholarship C4EO means more to me than just being a part of an Asian Cultural dance group. I have been dancing for C4EO ever since I was nine years old. I have been a part of this program for so long that saying goodbye will not be easy but I am so grateful I have been a part of this program because it has played a role in shaping the person I am today.

I have enjoyed learning Asian Cultural Dances. Not only is dancing fun but just learning and doing the different kinds of dances is so interesting. Due to the fact that I am an American Born Chinese, I love that I can learn about my culture while doing an activity I like to do which is dancing. Not only have I learned dances and about the Asian culture but I have learned a lot of valuable lessons that are not related to dance. I have learned how to react to situations because when performing, we are bound to make mistakes but it is all about how you react to the situation. I have made many dance mistakes but throughout the years I have learned how to handle situations calmly, quickly and efficiently. I have also learned how to be a team player. With dancing in a group, you rely on others and people rely on you.

My experience with C4EO is unforgettable and I give a big thanks to Nikki because she was the one who introduced me to this program. As for the new dance students, I would advise them to work hard but always remember to have fun. Dancing is fun and that is why we are all here together. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake, as long as you were trying your best, that mistake was worth making because that is how you will learn. Also always remember to smile because I can admit I am not the best dancer but I do try my best and that is why I smile because if you are up there, happy and trying your best, I think that is what makes you a great dancer. Thank you for an awesome nine years C4EO.

 


Nicole Gan

 Niki1

I did not know what I was getting myself into when I stepped into the ballet center at age seven. I do not even remember agreeing to take a dance class, but I willfully did so. With the knowledge that my best friend had joined a month earlier, my mother signed me up, and so began my ten-year career in Chinese dancing.

One word sums up my first year: stickers; and one special three-syllable word summarizes the following few years: roughhousing. It is not far fetching to say that we raided the studio as if it had become our private playground. Yet to be inspired, I quickly learned the obvious differences between Chinese dance and ballet and did the minimum to get through each Sunday practice.

It was not until I moved in with the older girls that I started to take dance more seriously. It was a dramatic change in environment for me, going into a more mature and focused group. I had seven older sisters to look up to that pushed me to want to be the best I could possibly be, even though they did not explicitly say so. They had given me new motivation to continue dancing. They made me realize my passion for dance.

Now a senior, I strived this year to be to the other girls what those that have graduated were to me. I want the girls to know that this is a safe and supportive environment to express themselves. Dancing at the studio every Sunday morning was my weekly break from everything else I had to worry about. I would not exactly call myself a role model, for I have those rough days when I feel chemically imbalanced, but I would call myself a friend, a peer, a confidant, and, hopefully, a somewhat instructive teacher to those who performed the water sleeve dance with me late last summer.

Chinese dancing, although not the center of my short but meaningful life, is an essential part of who I am. While I did not appreciate it enough when I was younger, the program at C4EO has transformed me into who I am today and continues to influence who I want to be. Although C4EO will no longer be a part of my weekly rounds, I will always consider the community at C4EO as a second family, encouraging me to try new things and embrace what may be new and, possibly, filled with adventure.

 

Ningning HuNingning

 

 

If my memory serves me right, I saw my first C4EO dance performance during the Annual Spring Festival at my Chinese school. I distinctly remember seeing the dancers spinning incessantly with their long dresses, as if motion sickness did not exist. It had struck me as odd how any of them managed to stay on their feet. When I got home that day I tried spinning for as long as I could but only ended up on the ground from loss of balance.

            Back then, I had been in elementary school, and I had wanted to learn to dance. Unfortunately, due to a schedule conflict, I could not sign up for C4EO until I was in seventh grade. Thinking back now, the first couple of months after I joined constituted the most challenging period of time I had in C4EO. I began with minimum prior training, and I had been placed in the oldest age group. Moreover, technical Chinese dance moves and putting on makeup were both new to me. With time, however, I got better and learned the ropes. All the struggles I faced initially seemingly disappeared. In fact, learning the different movements came more easily and applying stage makeup became routine. So, to any new dancers who may experience difficulties in the beginning, I would advise them to stick it out because dancing is something that requires time and dedication. Furthermore, dancing with C4EO will not only allow them to be part of a supportive family but also to have at their disposal wonderful opportunities and indispensable learning experiences.          

            Overall, since joining C4EO, I have met many amazing girls and inspiring adults. I have also been able to dance at various locations, some with cramped stages and random obstacles like fake trees, flowers, and a chandelier; these tested my adaptability and improved upon it. There were also other places with large audiences and prestigious guests; these performances taught me to be more confident and at ease in front of crowds. Without a doubt, being in C4EO has given me much more than I ever thought I would receive. Despite appearing on the surface as little more than a dance class and a couple of performances every year, it is, as I have expressed, much more meaningful than that. Therefore, any new dancers should know that C4EO will not only make them better dancers but will benefit them in other respects as well. Above all, they should treasure the moments they have in C4EO and know that it is a chance to put smiles on people’s faces and to serve the community by doing something they love.

 

        

Mimi 1

MimiL

 

  Mimi Lyang

 

I started dancing when I took a cultural dance class at Chinese school in kindergarten. But then a few classmates and I then moved on to join another group of Chinese cultural dancers who practiced at a studio in Walnut Creek. Eventually, I became good friends with all the young girls in my age group, and we all had a memorable time at each performance. However, soon enough, my fellow classmates and I slowly left the studio one by one and many of us stopped dancing. After our separation, a few of us then left the Chinese school to join a new one opening in Danville, which furthermore detached us from the comfortable community of family friends.

Throughout the following years, I started to miss dancing more and more, and eventually decided to re-join the group of girls that practiced at the Walnut Creek studio, which is now our dance group, C4EO. I instantaneously became close friends with all the different girls in the group, in which I was one of the younger dancers. Now, with Felicia and Robyn, we have become the oldest dancers in C4EO, and it all happened in what feels like just a few days. After spending almost every Sunday morning in the studio with some of the best girl friends I have ever met, there is no doubt that I will miss the memories and experiences we have together. Every performance we have been to, the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade, our end of the year showcase, every makeup and hair session we have had together—I will definitely miss. However, there should really be no worries because we will all be able to visit again once we have gone off to college, so our departure is not so much of a “good bye,” but instead more of a “see you later.”

Even though it may be a fact that Felicia, and Robyn, and I are graduating from C4EO dance, the idea that is most important is that the memories that we have all created as a group during the times we have spent together are the memories that will stay with us forever, and are also the memories that will never fade.

 

 

FeliciaZ

  Felicia Zhang

 

I first heard about C4EO from Mimi Lyang, who later nudged me to join after she learned I did Chinese dance at Chinese School. Dancing at C4EO was totally different from dancing in Chinese School’s EP class; for one, there was a lot more technique involved. I remember taking my first class with George as a teacher and realizing how utterly graceless I was compared to all the rest of the Group 4 dancers. However, instead of being discouraged, I persevered, and along the way I grew immensely.

            I have always enjoyed coming to dance at C4EO every Sunday morning. I never wanted to miss a class because I loved getting the chance to hone my technique and to dance in general. Throughout the years, my dancing has definitely improved; in fact, I feel that, thanks to the classical training that we get, not only am I better at Chinese dance, but I can also reach into other genres of dance as well. Thus, I have been steadily gaining confidence in both my dance skills and my body, which in turn has helped me gain general confidence in myself as well.

            Dancing at C4EO has also given me perspective and insight into my ethnicity. Growing up in America, I was taught American history, American culture, and knew all about American dances. On the other hand, C4EO has given me the opportunity to explore the Chinese side of things; until I joined, I never knew just how many objects—such as chopsticks, giant ribbons, handkerchiefs, or teacups—could be regularly used as dance props. In addition, I was never aware of how diverse Chinese culture is until I learned about all the different folkdances ranging from Dai to Big Skirt dances. C4EO was therefore not only a dance learning experience but also a cultural learning experience as well.

            During these quickly passing years, I have come to really appreciate C4EO not only for the chance to dance but also for being a medium for character growth. If there is one thing I would like to say to the rest of the C4EO dancers, it is that they should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to grow and learn. If they put their hearts into dancing at C4EO, then they will definitely get something out of it. As this dance class is only once a week, I greatly urge everyone to make the most of what they can, because such a great program at C4EO is pretty rare to come by.

 

 

 

Robyn Zhang

RobynZ

 

 I’ve been dancing since I was around nine years old, and I’velways been eager to pick up new styles. Gradually, I expanded my sty

 

les of dance to ballet, modern, jazz, and by the time I was 13, I could go en pointe. The most recent addition to my dance repertoire is Chinese dance, which has not only improved my technique, but also allowed me, a Chinese-American, to connect with my culture.

One of my close friends had been with C4EO for a long time, and I’ve always wanted to try out the classes and test out Chinese dance, and the summer before junior year I decided to do so. C4EO offered me the chance to become involved in numerous community service opportunities and at the same time I enjoyed myself so much at each event while we spread our traditions and brought joy to all the audiences. Another thing that I will never forget about C4EO is the sense of belonging to the huge C4EO family and meeting all my fellow dancers and dance moms. Besides loving to dance and learning Chinese dance, meeting everyone here is one of the best things I could have asked for. Everyone is so friendly, welcoming, and helpful—especially when wielding those blush brushes!

For newcomers lucky enough to have the experience of participating in C4EO, come to class on time! In relation to that, don’t party too hard on Saturday night because waking up at 8am the next day will not be fun. Put all your effort into your allotted two hours of class—it’s already so little time so that should give you even more incentive to work hard. I found that when I started Chinese dance, I had trouble remembering steps to pieces because they were all new forms I was unfamiliar with. Definitely practice new pieces at home, even if it just means marking it. And lastly, have all the fun, because before you know it you’ll be like one of us, graduating, and wishing you could relive the years with your C4EO family.

 

 

Amelia 

 

  Amelia Fambrini

 

I remember my first dance lesson with C4EO. Joining C4EO was something my mom and I had discussed but little did I know that Sunday morning after she had picked me up from my friend’s sleepover in my pajamas that we weren’t going home but straight to the studio. I was surprised and a little embarrassed as my bare feet tread over the shock-resistant floor and I took my place at the end of a line of girls I didn’t know. By the end of my first lesson, these girls were no longer strangers but my friends.

Dancing with C4EO has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to grow as a dancer and become part of a tight knit group of dedicated parents and students. For me, Chinese Dance was a gateway to a new form of expression that I had dabbled with but never really pursued. As I felt my body adapt, as repetitious ballet exercises developed and shaped my muscles and how I moved, I also felt a large appetite for more forms of dance begin to grow. I took up ballet, jazz, tap and cheer which also strengthened me as a dancer no matter what style I was performing, but more importantly my prior experience with Chinese Folk Dance allowed me to excel in those other forms.

What C4EO has also provided me with over the years is an amazing support network of dedicated parents and friends. I always feel happy and comfortable around them at the studio or at a performance. Performing Chinese Dance has also made me feel more cultured and really appreciate the beauty of my heritage. It has also led to a multitude of really great inside jokes that I share with the other dancers.

For new dancers, I think the most important thing that they should know is that what they’re doing is really unique and beautiful. It’s not like some ballet class where everyone does it when they’re four or five and then quits because they’ve moved on to some tomboy phase; it’s a really rewarding experience and what you get out of it depends on how much work you put into it. Thus if they work harder and try harder it only gets better and actually at some point will become easier as well.

 

 

                                                                                                      Jessica Ng

        Jessica          

People are confused when I say “C4EO.” First they have to digest the six words that the acronym implies, and then they ask, “So what does 'Contra Costa Chinese Cultural Enrichment Organization' even mean?” For me, though, e name “C4EO” conjures a clear mental image, one simultaneously of panting dancers, swirling ribbons, rushing mothers, and laughing girls. I have been with C4EO for eight years now, and it is rewarding to reflect n how I have grown not only as a dancer, but also as a person.

The most important role C4EO has played for me has been in providing an environment where I can break free of the expectations I feel in other areas of my life. I need not worry about my grades or test scores because they do not matter in dance. I can be different from how I am at school or at home—not a different person, but a different part of the same person.

Having been a member for eight years, I have seen dancers come and go, some off to college, others moving away, and still others simply losing interest. Now we have assembled a core group of dancers who have shown years of dedication, and we have all bonded over dance experiences, such as doing each other's hair and makeup, altering dance formations for each performance, and trying to adjust the stubborn thermostat in the dance studio. We have formed special friendships, the kind that grow when people work together and share sometimes challenging, sometimes rewarding experiences. I will miss them dearly when I leave for college, but I know we will continue to be part of each other's lives for years to come.

            I advise new C4EO members to get everything they can out of this terrific opportunity. There is so much to learn from the program, from the dance moves themselves to makeup application to coping with performance disasters. They can, as I did, grow in confidence from performances and learn to adapt flexibly to unpredictable performance circumstances. They can be inspired by the way dance allows for self-expression and seek other forms of dance to improve their technique, as others have done. Above all, they should embrace the opportunity to explore a beautiful form of Chinese culture with which not many people are familiar, learning to use various props, differentiating between ethnic styles, and finally showing audiences historical and beautiful Chinese dance.