On Saturday night, Jorgensen was packed with performers and fellow peers, family and friends, all awaiting to be taken on a journey through the variety of diverse cultures that make up the richness of Asian culture. Thanks to the people and groups of the Asian-American Cultural Center (AsACC), a ticket to Asian Nite was a ticket to Asian culture.
Asian Nite is put on each year to showcase the many forms culture takes through Asia, even without the same countries or areas. It’s one of the biggest events for the Asian community here since it brings so many people under one roof to celebrate the beauty of it all.
“The 14 performances during this year’s Asian Nite were just a glimpse of the rich, diverse and beautiful cultures housed under Pan Asian Council,” Pan Asian Council (PAC) Co-Coordinator Shreya Khadka said. “PAC is composed of representatives from 40 plus Asian/Asian American student organizations affiliated with the Asian American Cultural Center. Asian Nite is AsACC’s largest event of the year.”
Given the importance of Asian Nite as not only a huge show at UConn, but also as a means of representation for the Asian groups on campus, the planning behind it is crucial so that the show flows well and exceeds the audience’s expectations.
“The moment I got the date of Asian Nite, I started to plan out a little outline of when everything should happen,” Winfield Zhou, co-Asian Nite chair, remembered. “I’d say the hardest thing about putting Asian Nite together was probably performance auditions because this year had about the most amount of performers auditioning and making selections was very difficult, but in the end I think we made the right choices!”
Between the 14 groups that performed last night, some of highlights were Taiko, Surya, Breakdancing and Illumin8, Wushu, Husky Hungama (HH), Filipino American Student Association (FASA), Tibetan Interest Association (TIA) and the Jing Wu (JW) Team.
Taiko opened the show with their silhouettes contrasting the light behind them, sending chills as they started drumming. Taiko is a Japanese term for drum. Their set was incredible to see. It’s one thing to be able to put on a performance that is audibly pleasing, another to make it visually appealing and a whole other talent to be able to combine the two for a performance that deserves its spot as the opener.
Surya is UConn’s Bollywood fusion dance team. Their all-girl group never disappoints with their fierce choreography. This year, their set was inspired by “Rush Hour,” replacing the Chinese diplomat’s daughter with an Indian diplomat’s daughter. Surya has been known to create sets that use Bollywood to create parodies of popular movies.
“I think in general our team loves doing storylines that we can have fun with and incorporate gimmicks and jokes into, so it was perfect for us,” co-captain Monica Nagalla explained.
Nagalla explained that the process of parodizing different storylines involves a lot of scriptwriting and collaboration to perfectly tell the story they want to perform. Of course, it gets busy between the many competitions they’re part of.
“Asian Nite was actually perfect for us this time because we prepared most of our choreo and everything ready for our comp season a few weeks back,” Nagalla said.
The Breakdancing Club teamed up with Illumin8 to put on perhaps the most anticipated and mindblowing show of the night. Their set focused on the evolution of breakdancing and how the style has made its way into being a significant part of Asian culture by looking at the origins of breakdancing in the Bronx, the Asian-breakdancing connection in Korea and the celebration of Asian culture and hiphop at UConn. Their performance broke the laws of physics every second, but the most memorable moment was when some dancers took off their hoodies, tied it into a square, pulled it open and had another dancer jump through it, all in one fluid motion. It was beyond shocking.
“We practiced three days a week for one to two hours throughout the spring semester,” JP Henares, Breakdancing Club President, said. “As for the sweatshirt stunt, we took inspiration from a Korean breakdancing crew called Jinjo Crew … Each person grabs on to the sleeve of the person on their right and then twirls it over their head and pulls outward.”
UConn Wushu’s performance truly put the art in martial arts. Their moves were breathtaking and had a certain elegance. The amount of jaw-dropping flips, kicks and jumps was unbelievable. The most incredible part was their work with the swords.
“In wushu, there are honestly so many varieties of routines and weapons to showcase,” Wushu captain Kevin Yang said. “This year we chose more basic forms in terms of weapons ... As for the swords, they are actually made of spring steel. So they consist of metal that is thicker at the base but really thin towards the end. It is due to the thinness that allows it to make noise when we do stabs and slashes. It’s not sharp at the base at all, but towards the tip it gets fairly sharp. The thinness paired with quick speed is sharp enough to cut.”
Husky Hungama was one of two singing performances at Asian Nite. HH is a Bollywood fusion acapella group, and their mixes between popular English and Bollywood songs send chills down the audience’s spines. Their set included two mashups, “Sooraj Dooba Hai” with “Beauty and a Beat” and “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” with “Believer.” It was truly incredible to hear two cultures blend so perfectly.
“Our main focus each year is to prepare for competition, and for that we have to prepare a set of three mixes,” Co-Musical Director Vishal Cherian said. “They can pull from any genre, as long as they are fusion of western and indian music. As a group, we pick the songs that we want to sing, usually based around a theme or storyline that we want to convey ... For us, Asian Nite is right after all of our big comps, so we spend the year prepping these songs, and then we have them ready for Asian Nite.”
Filipino Student Association’s set was very creative. They focused on the idea of the evolution of Filipino dance but portrayed it on stage as if a family was going through a museum where the displays actually move, almost like “Night at the Museum.” It was a fresh new way to present an otherwise common way of showcasing culture.
“The museum setting was based on my idea of showing eras of Filipino history – particularly, the eras of pre colonialism, Spanish colonization, American colonization, and the modern day Philippines,” Cultural Chair Renz Patrick Rebeca said. “We really wanted to educate people a general summary of the Philippines and how it came to be – especially since our culture is a bit different compared to other Asian countries.”
Tibetan Interest Association used props on stage to set the scene. Their beautiful cultural outfits combined with the visuals on stage helped to narrate their set, which was about the uniqueness of each region and the need to stay united as one.
The Jing Wu team was the final performance of the night and was another crowd-favorite. Their Chinese power dancing set was absolutely beautiful, combining gorgeous outfits with different songs and props. Their show-stopping set ended with silk dance fans that were white and black or red, corresponding with their outfits. The grace and beauty in that dance in particular was the best way to end an incredible night of many amazing performances.
“The highlight of our performance yesterday was the silk fan dance,” President Yutong Meng said. “The choreo was inspired by traditional dance movements originated in the royal court of Han dynasty. We made adjustments of the original movements to make it smoother and more dramatic for the audience to watch. Our dancers wore traditional Han costumes for the dance as well.”
Other groups that performed include Korean Student Association, Riyaaz, KPL and PDPsi, Japanese Student Association, Nepalese Student Association and Husky Bhangra, all of which performed with plenty of heart and soul to continue the wonderful show.
Asian Nite overall was a success. It was incredible to watch all the performances showcase their culture through all their hard work. In a time where many minorities face discrimination, it is very important to spread the beauty of Asian culture.
“The ultimate goal of Asian Nite is having the opportunity to expose the greater UConn community to the diverse Asian/Asian-American cultures that are present here on campus,” PAC Co-Coordinator Aubrey Tang said. “It is truly amazing to see how these student organizations come up with story lines and performances that align with prevalent and relatable issues in the Asian/Asian-American community.
Although not all of the organizations are directly or easily recognized as related to Asian/Asian-American culture, the uniting purpose for all of these organizations is their commitment to displaying how diverse our community is and how Asian/Asian-Americans are not confined to stereotypes and societal expectations.”
“I thought the biggest success of the night was just how everyone came together to celebrate Asian American culture, whether it was the audience, volunteers or the performers,” Asian Nite Co-Chair Nitya Yelamanchili said. “They all made the night run as smoothly as it did!”
Armana Islam is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at email@example.com.