Bilingual Loy Norrix students perform with The Kalamazoo Chinese Academy

Left+to+Right%3A+Loy+Norrix+students+Trevor+Watts%2C+Alex+Bosak%2C+and+Nathan+Hodshire.+All+three+students+are+bilingual%2C+speaking+Chinese+Mandarin+and+English.

Photo by Ian Woodruff

Left to Right: Loy Norrix students Trevor Watts, Alex Bosak, and Nathan Hodshire. All three students are bilingual, speaking Chinese Mandarin and English.

Ian Woodruff, A/V Editing Team

You are sitting in darkness at Chenery Auditorium. Suddenly, a team comes out onto the stage and begins their diabolo performance

Diabolos/Chinese yo-yos are flying across the stage as the audience is in awe. In January and February, a yo-yo team from the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy performed at Chenery Auditorium in front of an audience with 800+ people. Three performers, being Alex Bosak, Nathan and Trevor Watts, also attend Loy Norrix High School.

Loy Norrix sophomore and yo-yo performer with the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy Alex Bosak said, “I enjoy the physical aspect of yo-yo-ing. It can be very physically demanding due to the fact that you are perpetually moving. It can be also extremely invigorating after you have accomplished a large chain of moves or just one extremely difficult move.”

The Chinese yo-yo, also known as the diabolo, is a significant part of traditional Chinese culture. The diabolo is similar to yo-yo-ing where the performers have two handles attached together with string or rope. The performers are constantly tossing, spinning, and flipping the diabolos. The performers also constantly jump over the centerpiece, the yo-yo/diabolo, in astounding ways. 

Bosak says that he’s been practicing Chinese yo-yo for about 4 years and has really enjoyed it.

“Chinese yo-yo is unlike any other activity I participate in. It involves a lot of skill.” Bosak continued, “People probably don’t realize how hard it is. It is so easy to mess up, so it takes a lot of practice to get it right consistently, but it is so much fun to get together with the team. The practices are actually run by the kids. The adults don’t know how to do it, we teach each other. If one kid learns a new trick, he or she will teach it to the others, so we can all learn. Everyone is really nice, funny, and we all try to encourage each other. It is one of my favorite activities!”

Alex Bosak, Nathan Hodshire, and Trevor Watts all attend the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy, where they are part of the yo-yo team, speak Chinese Mandarin, and engage in and learn about Chinese cultural activities. The Kalamazoo Chinese Academy is a non-profit group that meets weekly on the campus of Western Michigan University. 

This is also where all three students practice. Some performers are very young, while others are older. The older kids teach the younger kids, with practices ranging from 1-2 hours long. This helps prepare younger performers for future roles.

Last May was Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, and both Bosak and Hodshire are Asian. But this month is important for most who celebrate Asian culture and is not limited by your biological heritage.

Every year the community gets together to celebrate a number of Chinese performances at Chenery Auditorium in honor of the Chinese New Year. The performance is titled The Chinese New Year Gala. Each year it is becoming more prevalent in the Kalamazoo community as more and more people embrace the celebrations. 

The City of Kalamazoo has also partnered with the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy to bring the celebration around Kalamazoo, onto some streets and businesses. Last year, Dr. Rice, who was the superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools, and is now the State Superintendent for Michigan, came down from Lansing to attend the performances with over 800 people in the audience with him. 

If you would like to attend these performances, you can purchase tickets at Pacific Rim Foods, the Kalamazoo Chinese Christian Church, the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy, Chenery Auditorium on the day of the performance, and online at websites like the kalamazooarts.org

Tickets are $14 for general admission, $8 for members, kids 12 and under are also $8, and kids under 4 years old are free. You may also find the performances among other places such as schools, and even a roller derby once.