Six-year-old Atlantic City resident Aliana Strazzeri stood alongside the professional dancers of Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, whirling a long strip of red silk in the air in dramatic, swift movements.
"It's really beautiful with all the colors and the fancy costumes," said Aliana's mother, Rosa, who sat in the audience watching her daughter partake in the traditional Chinese dance with the professional performers at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.
The library hosted the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company of Fort Lee, Bergen County, on Sunday as part of its Chinese New Year celebration, which started Friday and marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse.
Atlantic City Youth Services Librarian Maureen Moffit said the library reflects the diversity of its community by celebrating every holiday imaginable, "and this is a big one," she said.
In Atlantic County, the number of residents of Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry grew by about 50 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Later this month, the library will hold several Black History Month events.
"It reflects who we are as a community," Moffit said.
Nai-Ni Chen, the company founder and a native of Taiwan, said although she hasn't been able to celebrate the holiday in her home country since the early 1980s, she feels fortunate to be able to stay in touch with her heritage and to share the traditions with Americans.
"I celebrate by performing for my audience and with my audience," Chen said.
The interactive performance showcased several traditional Chinese dances from different regions of the country, such as the Chinese Ribbon Dance, the long spear dance, a combination of ballet and the martial arts; and the Drum Dance.
Chen also explained to the audience the symbolism of the horse.
"In the old times, horses were used as a common mode of transportation and a way to deliver messages," she said. "So, saying the horse has arrived alludes to your destiny arriving. It symbolizes success. Many people feel this going to be a good year for business and a good sign for the growing economy."
Rosa Strazzeri said she and Aliana don't celebrate Chinese New Year, but she brought her daughter to the event to expose her to other cultures.
"We live in a world that's diverse, and we're lucky for that," she said.
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More library events
What: Black History Month children's event
When: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23
What: Story and Craft
on African American
Where: Atlantic City
Free Public Library, 1 N. Tennessee Ave., Atlantic City