AN EXTRAVAGANZA of dance, music and colour celebrated the start of Chinese New Year celebrations in Southampton.

The University of Southampton Confucius Institute hosted its second Chinese New Year Gala at the Turner Simms Hall, to welcome in the year of the snake.

Performers from across Southampton joined forces with artists from across the world to showcase a variety of Chinese arts, including graceful folk dances, martial arts demonstration and a lion dance.

Once again the focal point for the festivities will be an event at WestQuay shopping centre where a programme of entertainment is being planned throughout tomorrow.

The Chinese Association of Southampton has again organised the event, which will be attended by Southampton mayor Derek Burke and by both city MPs, John Denham and Alan Whitehead.

They will be among the audience who will be entertained by a traditional lion dance that will kick off proceedings from 11am on Sunday.

The theme of this year’s event is celebrating the Chinese New Year with the world. With that in mind the programme of events incorporates performances from the Indian community, a modern English choir along with martial art displays and a demonstration of Baduanjin, a form of Chinese exercise.

In a nod to the modern music scene, young members of the Chinese association will also take part in a mass performance of the popular Gangnam Style dance in the hope of participation from the crowds. The two-hour event will culminate with a traditional dragon dance that will lead out into the main shopping precinct.

Chairman of the Chinese Association of Southampton Joe Hon said: “The Chinese New year is very important in our culture in the same way Christmas is celebrated really.

“For Chinese people their family is their number one priority and this is the time where we all come together to celebrate and wish for a prosperous coming year.

“Our second priority is food, and so there is plenty of it at New Year. It is a real occasion and that is reflected in all our celebrations.

Last year was the first time the event had been staged undercover at the shopping centre after bad weather dampened the celebrations that were previously held outside the civic centre.

Mr Hon said: “The event at WestQuay is a chance for us to share all of our celebrations with all the other communities in the city which is very diverse. We would welcome everyone along to celebrate with us.”

l Although the programme of entertainment is finalised, a last-minute hitch means the association is now desperately searching for a stage.

The association is willing to pay for a stage measuring around seven metres long, and members are appealing for anyone who may be able to help out to email