Rabbit out, dragon in

A colorful celebration of song, dance and storytelling was held Saturday afternoon during a blessing of the Chinese New Year at the Community Center.

Foothill Chinese School students recited traditional Chinese phrases to wish their parents and friends in the audience good luck and health as the Year of the Dragon was poised to begin. The first day of the Chinese calendar was Monday.

Two students, one in a rabbit costume and the other clad as a dragon, danced on stage until the dragon chased the rabbit away, symbolizing the end of the Year of the Rabbit.

When the school started in 2005, there were a handful of students. Now, there are 80 students enrolled in the school, half of which come from non-Chinese families with an interest in expanding the number of languages their children can speak.

Andrea Giedraitis’ two daughters, Karina and Vesta, who already speak English and Lithuanian at home, attend extracurricular programs at the school where they are learning words and phrases in Chinese. The girls initially started learning Chinese at preschool, and they’ve followed their interest in Chinese language education at Foothill Chinese. Giedraitis and her husband wanted to fuel their daughters’ interest in the language because they believe it could be useful in today’s globalized economy.

Earlier this month, Giedraitis took her daughters to the Shen Yun performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as another Chinese cultural event.

“We want to support [Karina’s] interest in learning Chinese,’ Giedraitis said.

Craig Pierce said that when his family moved to Southern California from Oregon, he searched for a Chinese language program for his son Lucas.

“[Lucas] already speaks English and Spanish at home and we wanted him to learn a really hard language when he was still young,” said Pierce.

Liping Fan, president of the Foothill Chinese School board, said that the school is working to make Chinese a recognized foreign language within the La Cañada High School curriculum.

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