Experience Asia brings taste of the East

Last week, the Asian American Association (AAA) kicked off Experience Asia, a month of programs featuring speakers, movies, events and performances. The opening ceremonies, which took place Wednesday in Brower Student Center, showcased both traditional and contemporary Asian cultures through music, dance and poetry. This was followed on Friday by FantAsia, a themed social and game night.

“The purpose of these different events is to spread Asian-American cultural awareness,” Jenny Shin, vice president of public relations for AAA, said. The senior sociology major added that the opening ceremonies “were like a variety show.”

The first act of the opening ceremonies was Brooklyn-based alternative rock band Johnny Hi-Fi. The band has released two albums, toured Asia, and hosted two shows on MTV Chi, a new Chinese-American music channel.

“The underground movement of Asian-American musicians is doing very well,” lead singer Eric Hsu, also known as Johnny Hi-Fi, said. “I think it’s only a matter of time before they break into the mainstream.”

The Archana Dance Academy, an Indian dance group based in Bucks County, Pa., performed two routines.

The first routine, academy director Shaily Dadiala said, was a classical dance based on the Bharatnatyam and Kathak styles, with “regimented styles, acting and emoting.” The second, a more contemporary folk dance, had movements that were “highly energetic, and the music is faster-paced,” Dadiala said.

Yang Yi, an internationally acclaimed musician, performed on the guzheng, a 21-stringed Chinese instrument.

Creative writing adjunct professor Debora Kuan read her poetry, which dealt with conflicts she encountered growing up Chinese and Mormon.

Students could sample a variety of Asian foods.

The last act of the night was SulPoong, a student-led Korean drum troupe from the State University of New York in Binghamton. Their style of drumming, known as Poongmul, originated as a celebration of planting and harvesting.

Saathiya, the College’s South Asian fusion dance team, performed as an encore. The 20-member ensemble, which had just returned from a competition in Washington, D.C., regularly performs a combination of Indian and Western styles, including hip-hop.

“Since India itself is so rich in its culture, we try to combine all those styles,” Komal Gala, senior biology major said.

Linh Duong, sophomore business management major, said she appreciated how the event incorporated both traditional and new cultural influences. She also said that her experience with AAA had been positive.

“It’s great organization for Asians to bond together at (the College),” Duong said.

Sampling from a wide variety of Asian cultures was also important.

“It’s fine to showcase one particular culture,” Diana Ling, committee co-chair of Experience Asia month, said, “but we always try to create a balance, so that people can learn about as many cultures as possible.”

On Thursday, AAA hosted a bubble tea workshop, where attendees learned how to make the popular tapioca-bubble drink.

While last Wednesday’s ceremonies featured a variety of performances, Friday night’s FantAsia in the Cromwell Main lounge was a more interactive event.

Students could learn origami, play the Japanese number puzzle Sudoku or the Chinese tile game mahjongg. They could also compete at Dance Dance Revolution, which the Japanese club had set up on a projection screen.

“We’d just like to get people to come in and experience new things with us,” Jon King, senior psychology major and AAA president, said. “(FantAsia) used to be strictly to educate, but now we’re trying to educate and build camaraderie with the rest of the group.”

Part of the purpose of FantAsia was also to drum up excitement for Mystique of the East, a variety show that AAA puts on in the spring.

Events for the rest of Experience Asia month include movie nights and speakers. Tomorrow, Sheridan Prasso, author of “The Asian Mystique,” will be giving a “True Colors” discussion about media portrayal of Asian stereotypes.