‘Mystique’ brings taste of the East to the College

The sights and sounds of the Far East filled the Kendall Hall auditorium Saturday night during Mystique: Ghosts of Asian Past. The Asian American Association’s (AAA) 12th annual Mystique of the East combined over 20 acts of dance, music, theater, martial arts and fashion into one spectacular journey through various Asian cultures.

This year, the stories of five fictional Asian American college students on quests to discover their heritages were entwined with cultural performances that celebrated the nations of China, India, the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam.

These characters, played by AAA members, provided a link between the modern lives of Asian Americans and the traditional values and customs of their ancestors.

The acts were choreographed and performed by organizations such as the Korean American Student Association, Indian Student Association, Saathiya, the Japanese Club and the Chinese Culture Club.

Standout acts included the opening Vande Mataram, a mixture of traditional Indian and modern dances; the beautiful and graceful Chinese Umbrella Dance; and the awe-inspiring Tinikling, or “bamboo dance,” which consisted of 12 dancers skillfully maneuvering their feet between six large bamboo poles.

Performed every other year, Tinikling is a crowd favorite for good reason. The precision and swiftness it requires doesn’t leave any room for slip-ups.

Other dances featured the clanging of wooden sticks (Sakuting), the swirling of ribbons (Chinese Ribbon Dance) and fans (Chinese and Korean Fan Dances) and even a mock-battle (Maglalatik).

Humorous, nonmusical vignettes included a Japanese Kabuki theater scene between two samurai who are vying for a princess’ affection, and a recreation of the 1960s Bruce Lee karate show “The Green Hornet.”

The ancient Indian legend of King Akash, who must turn to the gods of the four elements to save his country from ruin, was also a lot of fun to watch. This act was the favorite of Jon King, junior psychology major and president of AAA.

“I first saw Mystique my freshman year and it was so amazing,” King said when asked about how he first became interested in the organization. King, who is not of Asian descent, started out doing publicity for AAA. He was unsure at first about running for president.

“I was worried that people might not take the group seriously with a white guy as president,” King said, “but I learned that it really doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are so long as you contribute and put the group ahead of yourself.”

King said that the knowledge of Asian culture that he has obtained and the refinement of his organizational skills have made it all worthwhile. His involvement in the group has also attracted several other non-Asian students to the club.

“(Mystique) was really stressful, and I’m glad it’s over,” King said. Still, King said that the production was a blast and that everyone left the stage smiling.

According to King, many of the acts began practicing five hours a week in early February. King said that the members of AAA try everything they can to improve the show each year.

“It’s all about people coming together for one goal – cultural awareness,” Jenny Shin, senior sociology major and AAA vice president of external affairs, said.

Shin’s favorite part of the evening was the fashion show featuring tradition Asian dress styles.

“It shows all the elements of each country,” Shin said. The clothes were all authentic, borrowed from AAA members’ relatives.

AAA began as an official organization in 1989 with only 10 members. Since then, 40 active members have been added. Mystique of the East began in the spring of 1992.

According to AAA’s Web site “(Mystique) is the biggest, most colorful, most beautiful production from AAA, and it’s a show that makes AAA what it is now, a show that binds the members, and a show that is always memorable for the performers as well as the audience.”