Santa rides a red dragon

TRADITIONAL Chinese culture isn’t where’d you normally go looking for Santa Claus.

However, thanks to a Chinese government initiative aimed at preserving the country’s ancient arts, kids in Perth will get to hang out with Santa, his helpers and a favourite fairytale character at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, December 16 – 22.

Bringing all these disparate bits together is remarkable young Perth music teacher and WAAPA graduate Fay Gao.

Ms Gao started learning music as a 4-year-old back in her hometown of Shenyang, China, where she studied piano at the local conservatory.

But in 2002 she followed her heart and a young beau to Australia, taking up her studies at WAAPA and completing a masters in performance. To pay the bills she set up a day care centre and a music school which is still running today and employs eight music teachers.

Her big break came in 2007 when the Chinese government contacted her production company Meilan Music, which she’d set up as a 16-year-old back in Shenyang with fellow student Sui Xiaofeng. He’s since become something of a popstar in China.

With government funding, he composed the music for a puppetry show based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale Thumbelina, the tiny girl who emerges from a peasant’s flower and goes on quite an adventure after being carried off by a toad.

• Hang out with Thumbelina and Santa with Meilan Music’s Christmas production Thumbelina.

There’s been five performance of Thumbelina in China since then, while Xiofeng has since added Snow White and Cinderella to the repertory.

Ms Gao always dreamed of bringing a show to her new home, but says it’s so expensive it’s taken a decade to save enough money.

Now she’s locked in Thumbelina at the convention centre, and has roped in hundreds of local singers, musicians, actors and dancers to ensure it’s got a real Aussie flavour.

And her talented buddy has rejigged the score to add in an appearance from Santa and his tiny helpers, who have been co-opted from dance schools throughout the city.

Helping the whole thing along has been the generosity of the Chinese government, which has paid for a 40-foot container full of a million dollars’ worth of lighting and high-tech gadgetry to be shipped to Perth for the performance.

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