Arizona Republic
September 7, 2006


Author: Art Thomason, (Phoenix, AZ)
It started with an international reception in a north Mesa neighborhood and ended in a cultural explosion of color and choreography on a Mesa Arts Center stage.

The People's Republic of China converged on Mesa over the weekend in a celebration of family, the arts and strengthening ties through personal relationships.

The visit will stimulate economic development and trade through global partnering at the municipal level, said Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer and Ron Newth, an optometrist who has helped guide Mesa's 12-year relationship with Kaiping, China, through the Sister City Association.

"The Sister City work is really underappreciated," Brewer said.

Both addressed a sellout crowd Sunday night at the 1,600-seat Ikeda Theater, the Mesa Arts Center's largest venue, at the outset of a two-hour performance by actors, singers, dancers and comedians from China and the Chinese-American community in the Valley and Los Angeles.

Though the 16-act show was an observance of the Moon Festival, a Chinese holiday likened to Thanksgiving because of its aura of gratitude, family and food, it was enough to make a Broadway producer take note.

"It was a riot of colors, a sensory overload visually and audio-wise," said Dennis Kavanaugh of Mesa, chairman of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

It was also a major accomplishment from a development and sales standpoint for people like Tony Kao and Garry Ong, Phoenix businessmen who helped organize the show less than two months ago.

The performance was sold out, Kao said, through the Chinese-American community and the Mesa Sister City Association's Kaiping committee.

"The elders of the community said it was the biggest and best they have ever seen," Ong said.

While performers rehearsed Saturday at the arts center, Sister City delegates from Kaiping were greeted by their Mesa counterparts and other community leaders for dining and networking at the north Mesa home of Newth and his wife, Joan, a community activist and former city council member.

During the soiree, the delegation was drawn to paintings of landscapes featuring historic buildings in Kaiping on a lighted concrete block wall in Newth's backyard.

The Kaiping Diaolou, first built in the late Ming Dynasty, are a blend of Chinese and Western architectural styles.

Translating for the delegation, Ong said their hope is that Kaiping's relationship with Mesa will "be as long as the Yangtze River," the longest river in Asia.

CAPTION: Dancers celebrate the Moon Festival in a 16-act performance to a sellout crowd Sunday at the Mesa Arts Center's Ikeda Theater. It was part of a cultural exchange over the weekend between Mesa and the People's Republic of China.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Gilbert Republic
Page: 15

Index Terms: ECONOMY
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Record Number: pho149583997