BY GABBY RAYMOND '20
On Nov. 11, the Asian Students Association hosted their annual show, VariAsians. The ASA, which was formed in 1974, has hosted this cultural celebration as their main event for over 20 years.
According to Congyi Li ’17, Co-Chair of the ASA Board, the date and space were booked in the spring, but the elaborate dinner, the many acts and the fashion show models were all organized this fall “This show is very much a Five College collaboration, and it’s amazing to watch everyone come together and showcase their talents, especially first years who are just beginning to get involved,” said Anna Zheng ’18.
The cultural celebration gathered a large group of friends, family, students and faculty. One attendee, Kalyani Kannan ’17, said, “it was so nice to have a taste of some of the things my family cooks; it felt like I was walking into my grandma’s kitchen with all the different spices.”
There were a wide variety of different types of food, including Thai, Indian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. Evvie Halpert ’19 enjoyed the food served. “I think the flavors are great and there was a lot more variety than last year,” she said. ASA ordered food from local Asian restaurants. One of the food coordinators, Prokriti Shyamolima ’19, said, “I love seeing people’s faces light up when they see specific foods, like the beef green curry or the spicy Korean rice cakes.”
At 7 p.m., the show kicked off with a stand up comedy act by ASA co-chair Camille Gladieux ’18. She shared a story about being asked where she is “really” from, saying, “I’m kind of done with having to explain myself and where I’m from. I shouldn’t have to validate my status as a citizen in a country I’ve lived in all my life.”
The first half of the show was dominated by various groups of dancers. The Vietnamese Student Association did a traditional conical hat dance with a V-Pop fusion, the Chinese Students Dance Team performed three traditional dances and the Nepali Student Organization performed a dance representing young love blossoming. A Five College K-Pop dance crew performed a series of high energy dances before the belly dancing group RAQS took the stage. ODM, another Five College group took the stage to perform J-Pop dances. Then, the solo performer of the night, Ping Li ’20, took the stage with her internationally acclaimed ancient Chinese dance that embodies a woman waiting for her husband to return from building the Great Wall. Jhumka, a bollywood and hip-hop dance team were the last to take the stage before intermission.
Following them was Hanabe, a group of Smith students who sang in Japanese and did a rendition of the Pokemon theme song. Mount Holyoke’s Rainbow Jelly Dance Group followed, inciting screams of excitement from the audience. Then the Kachimushi Naginata Club held a demonstration and were followed by a solo performance on the traditional bamboo flute and a performance by Taal, the Bollywood and jazz fusion club.
The performance portion was capped off by one of VariAsians’ longest returning groups, DBJ, a Pioneer Valley dance team that aims to “promote musicality and diversity within the community, Li said. Austin Chap, a sophomore and member of the dance group from UMass, said, “we are such a close knit community and it’s nice to be able to come to this show every year and show our connection to one another through dance.”
VariAsians finished with its iconic fashion show – there was a mix of traditional and modern gowns from all over Asia, including saris, lehengas, kimonos and hanboks. Hanye Chenn ’20 wore her qipao, a traditional Chinese dress. Fang Qian Xu ’20 wore her traditional Mongolian dress and headdress. Jia Kelleher ’16, a former publicity chair for VariAsians, said, “There was a lot more diversity than in the past – this year was a perfect balance of clothing from different regions of Asia.”
Students of all backgrounds came to Chapin to enjoy the good food, entertainment and culture that either reminded them of home, or gave them a taste of something new. At the close of another year of VariAsians, Li looked back at her four years on the board and said, “VariAsians is really all about coming together to create positive energy and celebrate Asian culture.”