Asian Nite 2016 rocks the house, showcases student organizations

Members of 14 different Asian student organizations are seen on stage during Asian Nite 2016 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. (Allen Lang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut celebrated its 22nd annual Asian Nite on Saturday, showcasing the skills of 14 different Asian organizations, teams and clubs at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.

The event was organized and conducted by the Pan Asian Council, which serves as an umbrella organization for the various student-run Asian clubs and organizations on campus. The Asian American Cultural Center, or AsACC, also helped organize and run the event.

The theatre was packed with students and local residents alike, along with friends and family of the performers. Introducing the segments were hosts and organizers Sally Park, Jimmy Zheng, Tim Yang and Mair Chalupa, with the occasional quip or shoutout to the audience.

The first group to perform was the Indian dance team UConn Surya, showcasing a blend of traditional dance styles such as Bharatanatyam and Bhangra, along with more contemporary hip hop and Bollywood. The act featured a backstory of two murderers on the run from the FBI, with the dancers acting out the various scenes.

The second act was less thunderous and more heart-wrenching, with a soulful solo of the Chinese song ‘Against the Light’ performed by Yue Mao, in the original Mandarin lyrics. The audience waved cell-phone lights to the rhythm of the music, cheering for the student at the song’s conclusion.

Third in line was dance group Shah Ru Conn, named after a famous Bollywood actor. Indeed, the group had an act worthy of any Bollywood musical, with the framing story telling a tale of woe, as a hapless boy breaks free of his manipulative girlfriend.

Exclusive hip-hop dance group Illumin8 then took the stage, clad in street clothes and shaking the boards with a unique blend of hip-hop and breakdance to modern tunes.

Next was UConn Sanskriti, showcasing some of the more traditional iterations of Indian dance. Clad in traditional garb and ghungroos (ankle bells) the group performed different styles of dance based on regional variations.

“We practiced a lot.” Sanskriti team member Lakshmi Swami said. “We create the dancing together. We’ve all gotten closer practicing.”

The Nepali Student Association then performed, in a “Battle of the Dancers” and tried to decide which was better: modern dance styles or traditional Nepalese moves. In the end, the two opposing groups reconciled in the name of helping Nepalese earthquake victims.

The event then took a break from the dance groups and featured UConn’s Taekwondo team, in a thrilling performance that involved breaking several boards. Bits of wood flew as the group kicked, punched, and whacked their way through several blocks. The act ended with one student taking a flying leap to snap a block of wood clean in half, to the cheers and roars of the approving crowd.

After a brief intermission, the Japanese drum-based Taiko club took the night by storm, with a thunderous performance of “Yabusame”, a percussion-heavy piece meant to replicate the sounds of horseback archers in battle.

“We’ve been preparing for this since the first semester.” club president Luann Liang said. “It’s months and months of hard drilling.”

After UConn Taiko came Husky Hungama, a South Asian-fusion acapella group. Dressed in Indian attire, the group sang a colorful mishmash of Hindi lyrics with the popular songs ‘Hello’ by Adele and Vance Joy’s 'Riptide.'

Next was the UConn Breakdance team, telling the story of the “Husky Village Ninjas” endeavoring to become master ninjas. After a riotous performance including backflips, spinning and a John Cena reference, the ninjas defeat the villain in a battle worthy of a “Naruto” episode.

Then came the Korean Student Association, taking the audience on a trip through time back to the 90s, when K-Pop originated. They danced to older styles and titles like Candy’s “H.O.T.”, all the way to modern day songs such as "Gangnam Style."

The colorful Indian dance team Husky Bhangra came after, energetically dancing to a blended style of older Indian music and rap songs, while utilizing traditional techniques and instruments such as wooden saaps.

The Filipino American Student Association had a variety of different dances, from a traditional father-daughter dance, to the pole-based dance Tinikling, as the group discussed identity issues of an American-born Filipino.

Closing off the event was the Japanese Student Association, with an energetic dance-based retelling of the mythological tale of Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess of the sun, plunging the world into darkness when she hides in a cave and her siblings’ attempts to retrieve her.

All the organizations then gathered onstage for one last curtain call, to the thunderous applause of the audience.

PAC member Shushrusha Camsal attributed part of the night’s success to UConn’s new crowdfunding system, Ignite.

“Asian Nite has grown,” Camsal said. “There’s so many groups… Ignite has helped.”

“I’m so proud,” one attendee said. “Every year, they step it up.”

“I think it’s amazing.” audience member Claire Keenan said. “It’s amazing to me how culturally diverse UConn is...it’s wonderful to see.”


Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu.