Asia Pacific New Year showcases culture, flavors of India

There isn't much of anything you can get for free anymore, but Tacoma's Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) has a major event planned for Feb. 13 that will cost you nothing to attend yet give you a lot in return.

It's APCC's 12th annual Asia Pacific New Year Celebration at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, and for no charge at the door, families of all types and sizes will have a full day of festive entertainment, cultural exhibits and information, foods and new friendships to help ring in the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese zodiac. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and up to 7,000 people are expected to attend.

Throughout the day children can participate in educational and fun games, storytelling and hands-on activities. There will be more than 60 booths displaying arts and crafts, travel information, jewelry, henna and more and the food court will offer tantalizing fare from Bombay Bistro (India), Korea, China, Japan and Polynesia.

Each year a different culture and country is selected as the main feature of the celebration. This year the South Asian country of India will be showcased in a program organized by APCC India Program Chair Anita Walia, co-owner of Bombay Bistro with husband Kamal. While she said planning such a big event is new to her, Walia, who is new to the APCC Board of Directors, has done an outstanding job of putting together two hours of performing arts to show the best of India through local and internationally known artists.

"I've never done something like this on such a big scale before, but I said if the job is given to me I will make sure that the best stuff is presented," Walia said.

She spent a lot of time reaching out to Indian performers from Portland to Seattle to find those that represent the best of the best in Indian culture.

The India showcase opens on the main stage at noon with Vadya Vrinda, a Seattle-based group performing popular raga-based Marathi and Hindi songs, while blending classical instruments like the santoor and sitar with the harmonium and tabla.

Next on the program is the Pratidhwani Theater Company presenting Indian classical and folk dances. Audiences can watch how the movements of the dancers resemble the movements of a dancing flame in Bharatanatyam or "fire dance;" learn how Kathak dance traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India, known as Kathaks or storytellers. Another classical dance, the Jugalbandhi, features a playful competition between two solo musicians. Rajasthani, Bengali, Kashmiri and Marathi styles of folk dances will also be presented.

Additional groups include locals Ratna Roy and the Urvasi Dance Company; Gajjde Punjabi, a University of Washington team promoting Punjabi culture; and the grand finale will be a dazzling display of up to 40 Bollywood dancers performing movements as seen in the blockbuster film "Slumdog Millionaire."

At 3 p.m. the performance program shifts to other Asia Pacific countries featuring talented artists from Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, China, Japan, Philippines, Samoa, Guan and Tahiti.

While admission is free, the event is a fundraiser to support APCC school and youth programs, low-cost classes and workshops for adults on cultural food preparation and visits by young international artists. APCC represents 47 countries and cultures, offering programs and services honoring their distinct artistry, business protocols, history and social practices. New Year Celebration attendees can support these efforts by becoming a member of APCC, purchasing raffle tickets at the event, or through direct donation. A special membership drive is currently underway - $10 for the entire 2010 year. Benefits include discounts at local restaurants, APCC programs and events such as tea ceremonies, language and cooking classes and other hands-on activities. To learn more, contact the APCC office at (253) 383-3900 or visit


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