On February 28th, 2015, from 2–3pm, shoppers at Ross Park Mall will be getting a special treat. Pittsburgh’s award-winning Yanlai Dance Academy will be giving an hour-long series of performances to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Anyone near the food court at that time as well as on the floor below will be able to see a marvelous spectacle of the talented dancers showcasing both traditional and original Chinese dancing.
Founded by internationally acclaimed performer Yanlai Wu in 2004, Yanlai Dance Academy is one of Pittsburgh’s foremost professional dance schools. It welcomes students of all ages and levels of experience with a curriculum that invigorates its students’ imaginations, while improving their physical well-being with Western ballet, jazz, tap, and modern styles, as well as classical Chinese dancing.
I interviewed Michael Gianoutsos, a lifelong Pittsburgher from the South Hills, who had reached out to Yanlai for the performance. Michael is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at Ross Park Mall, and his brother recently married a Vietnamese woman. Some of Michael’s fondest memories living in Pittsburgh are when he would go downtown for the 4th of July celebrations. Michael has noticed an increase in traffic among the Asian community at Ross Park Mall in recent years. After experiencing the beautiful wedding traditions, he had an idea: he would bring an aspect of one of China’s most joyous and beautiful annual celebrations to the mall to give everyone a taste of the traditions many of the malls’ shoppers observe.
A product of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Michael feels that Ross Park Mall is an integral part of how Pittsburgh is reinventing itself. Not only is Pittsburgh now a center of innovation, livability, quality healthcare, and education, thanks to Ross Park Mall, the city now offers the full spectrum of retail to western Pennsylvania. Founded in 1986 and owned by Simon Property Group, Ross Park Mall underwent renovations in 2000, and in 2008 it added a crucial luxury retail component that allows the mall to fulfill its mission to cater to every taste. With retailers like Nordstrom, Armani Collezioni (which opened its first store in the US at Ross Park Mall), Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and many others, the mall now offers the same richness of choices to shoppers that the city of Pittsburgh offers to people in lifestyles. As Michael explained, you can live in the rolling hills on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, or in the new developments downtown, or in one of Pittsburgh’s trendy neighborhoods, each with its own subculture, and all relatively affordable. This is important to the increasing number of internationals coming to the region, many of whom are Chinese students.
And to deal with these high volumes of students, Michael has in the past worked with organizations like Carnegie Mellon University to shuttle students from the school to the mall on certain crucial days like Black Friday. He hopes to expand these transportation options in the future so that more of Pittsburgh’s young population can enjoy what the mall has to offer.