There was a time when Philadelphians traveled to New York to see the Chinese New Year Spectacular "Myths and Legends."
This year, celebrators can see it locally: For the first time the troupe is coming to Philadelphia for performances at the Merriam Theater.
The 28-city worldwide tour will offer shows Tuesday and Wednesday highlighting the Tang Dynasty, a golden era of history for China's arts.
This show is just one of many events to ring in Chinese New Year 4705, the Year of the Pig, which will officially begin Feb. 18.
The Chinese New Year Spectacular, sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia and Delaware Asian Culture Centers and New Tang Dynasty Television, a Chinese-language network, features more than 200 international vocalists, musicians, and classical Chinese dancers in traditional regalia.
The show transports audiences to ancient China with themes based in Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, organizers say. High-tech set design showcases booming drums and graceful dance troupes that perform ethnic shows in addition to traditional Chinese dance.
The show also will feature the choreography of Tia Zhang, whose work last year focused on "Lion's Eyes Turn Red," a well-known Chinese tale in which bad deeds are punished and good deeds rewarded.
The Tian Yin Orchestra will perform using instruments of Chinese origin, including the wooden fish, which makes an almost humorous bright, clicking sound; the singing bowl, which was played by temple monks; and the gong with its familiar drone, used traditionally only when the emperor's court arrived.
"When the communists took over [in the 1950s], much of China's 5,000-year history and tradition was destroyed," said Michelle Yu, one of hundreds of local volunteers who helped bring the troupe here. "With this show, we are trying to bring it back. It's really fantastic."
An evening show and a matinee for elementary and secondary-school students and senior citizens will be held each day.
Evening shows start at 7:30; matinees are at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the theater, 250 S. Broad St. Tickets: $20 to $65 for evening shows, $12 for matinees, can be purchased through the Ticketmaster or the Merriam box office. Information: 215-310-8285 or www.shows.ntdtv.com.
If you're looking for something to do with the kids for the Chinese New Year, take a trip to the museum. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will host activities for the little ones from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The museum's events are family friendly, says spokeswoman Pam Kosty. The daylong schedule offers music, dance performances, healing and martial arts demonstrations, games, workshops, arts and crafts, and of course, food.
For the fifth year, the Plum Flower Dance Company, based in Newtown, will showcase its talents. The troupe, 10 girls ages 8 to 14, will perform Chinese folk dancing. Nancy Lee, 46, choreographer and program director, said the girls enjoy sharing their culture with a larger community.
"The audience response is very good, and that keeps the girls encouraged and feeling supported," Lee said. "It also helps the girls learn about the celebration of the Chinese New Year."
In 2001, a group of parents approached Lee, who teaches language and dance at Yardley Chinese Language School in Newtown, and asked her to teach their adopted daughters traditional folk dancing. The group blossomed from that request. Lee said she learned folk dancing as a child growing up in Taiwan, where instruction was mandatory.
This is the 26th year the museum has sponsored the celebration. Kosty said there was so much to do visitors would need a schedule.
"You can't do it all, there is so much," Kosty said. "You'll have to pick and choose, so we'll have schedules available as soon as you come in."
Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, free under age 6. Information: 215-898-4890 or www.museum.upenn.edu.
OTHER NEW YEAR'S EVENTS
Feb. 2: Main Street Mount Holly will have its tribute to the Year of the Pig from 6 to 8:30 p.m. during its annual town meeting at the library, 307 High St. Pig statues displayed since New Year's Eve in downtown storefronts will be auctioned off to benefit the artists and the main street association. This marks the fourth year of Mount Holly's public art project with the Chinese zodiac calendar. The auction starts with a minimum bid of $200.70 to honor the year 2007. Information: 609-914-0811.
Feb. 17: A family performance to celebrate the new year is scheduled at 2 p.m. and a gala with a dinner show will be held in the Victoria Theater of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Martial arts and dances will be performed by the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company. The family performance is suitable for children 8 and older. Tickets and information: 1-888-466-5722.
Feb. 24: Ring in the Chinese New Year at Independence Seaport Museum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This family program is free with admission or membership. Festivities include hands-on activities such as making Chinese lanterns and designing a dragonhead that children can take home. A calligraphy artist will print names in Chinese. Information: 215-413-8630 or www.phillyseaport.org.