First published with The Courier –

Not every member of the Happy Birds Chinese dancing group is necessarily interested in dance itself. But the joy they find in the tradition and culture of dance is unquestionable when you see them rehearse.

No one can wipe the beautiful smile from organiser Julie Xiuli Yang’s face as the group rehearse their performance at Ballarat’s Trades Hall.

HAPPY DANCERS: Julie Xiuli Yang (on right) with fellow Happy Birds member. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham.

“Not everyone is really interested in dance, but we get together just like sisters and we see the group as our family,” she says.

“As immigrants, our families are in China. Here we can share our language and culture with our Happy Birds family.”

Julie says dance allows a connection with their culture and heritage away from their relatives in China.

“I thought, ‘maybe we are the new generation and we should bring more of our culture here to share with the people.”

“That’s why I started Happy Birds.”


Julie first began a traditional Chinese dancing group in New Zealand before she moved to Ballarat in 2009 and started this group last year.

“Chinese culture is more than 5,000 years old.

“We should practice and maintain it and share it with the people here. It is special. For you it is special; for me it is special; for everyone it is special. It’s unique.”


The group of 12 women performed at the Chinese New Year celebrations at Sovereign Hill last week.

They will be dancing at the Harmony Festival and Begonia Festival in March.

“Do you like the name Happy Birds?” Julie asks.

“Life was a hard when we first arrived in Australia. We looked back and thought, ‘we should keep life easy and fun’.

“Seeing the birds, you don’t know if they have any pain or not. When people look at them they enjoy it. That is why we like it. We want to be a happy bird.”

Happy Birds member Helen Miecheo loves the Chinese community in Ballarat.

“We are far away from home,” she says.

“We sometimes miss our home town.

“But together we feel very lovely and warm.”