Arts, On Campus

Bringing the Past Into the Present, the CSA/KSA Cultural Showcase Stuns

From the very start, the crowd was going wild. Robsham Theater reverberated with the good-natured whoops and yells from the audience, comprised almost entirely of students. It was abundantly clear that most of the audience were the friends and peers of those who were about to appear on stage. Two young men with microphones walked out, immediately met with applause. Some of the crowd even shouted their names, eliciting smiles and chuckles from the two on stage. The two introduced themselves and laid out the goals for “This Legacy of Ours,” the performance put on by the Korean Student Association and the Chinese Student Association. The objective would be to learn about traditional and modern Korean and Chinese culture, and, of course, to have fun. The showcase would follow a family of four composed of a Chinese father, a Korean mother, and two teenage children, all played by members of the two associations. This family would be attending the festival alongside the audience, watching the show from within the show itself.

As the two left the stage, the sound of banging drums and clashing cymbals washed across the theatre, beginning with the traditional Chinese Lion Dance. Joining the drummers and cymbalists on stage was the Dai To Fut, a man wearing a mask of the same name and translates to Big Laughing Buddha Head. The masked man leapt across the stage, his movements a mixture of dance and traditional martial arts. This performer showed surprising dexterity and flexibility, kicking his leg high into the air as this performance began. While the Dai To Fut was moving around the stage, two Chinese lions manned by two performers each, appearing very similar to a shortened Chinese dragon, prowled around the drummers and cymbalists. One of the lions was “fed” a head of lettuce but apparently did not much like the taste, as the “feeder” was showered with a regurgitation of shredded lettuce, to the roaring applause of the crowd.

What was most impressive about the Lion Dance was when one of them “reared up.” The person playing the head of the lion climbed onto the shoulders of the person playing the body, allowing the lion to rise far above the crowd. After this scene ended, one of the introducers explained the meaning of the lettuce. The Chinese word for lettuce, at least in one dialect, is almost identical to the word for prosperity. The lettuce was used to bring prosperity to the audience and the rest of the evening.

The family then appeared on stage, acting out a small scene in which the children were clearly more involved with their technology than the culture of their parents present at the festival. This skit was followed by a Samulnori. Samulnori is a kind of traditional Korean music performed with the janggu, kkwaenggwari, jing, and buk, all types of percussion instruments. A Korean Fan Dance, or buchaechum, followed the percussion. The Fan Dance was performed by dozens of young women in flowing-pink dresses holding colorful pink and green fans coordinated to show stunning patterns and displays. Other highlights of the first act included a kung fu performance, which displayed the martial arts talents of selected performers through a series of choreographed fights. Another of note was the Chinese Ribbon Dance, comprised of a male and female version, each mesmerizing the crowd with their colorful and waving ribbons. The female ribbon dance was more traditional, but beautiful nonetheless. The women formed a line with their ribbons above their head, creating a tunnel of waving color. The male ribbon dance was a more modern take on the art, with the performers waving glowing white ribbons in time with the beats of a more up-tempo modern song.

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After a brief intermission, the high energy of those on stage and in the seats of Robsham brought the second half of the show to life, just as it had the first. A well-choreographed number by dance group Aero-K started the latter half of the showcase. Other scenes during this part of the show included the Dragon Lantern, a Chinese yo-yo display, as well as singing and dancing from Kpop and Cpop (Korean and Chinese pop music).

The Chinese yo-yo performance was especially mesmerizing. On a darkened stage, three performance spun their neon yo-yos faster and faster on the string between their two sticks, a device also known as a diabolo. After a brief display of the spinning neon lights, the lights were brought up and more performers entered with pastel-colored yo-yos for the second part of the performance. It was incredible to see the heights to which these yo-yoers could send their  diabolos soaring. At one point, the performers paired up and began to juggle the yo-yos back and forth. The coordination required to catch these flying objects on thin strings while remaining in rhythm was apparent to those sitting in the audience.

Wrapping up the performances in the show was a display of modern acts. These were mainly comprised of dances to popular songs of today in English as well as Korean and Chinese. One of the more rousing parts of the modern acts was a rock performance by four young men. The rock song was in Chinese, but this didn’t stop the audience from getting involved. When one of the singers motioned, the crowd began clapping their hands and swaying back and forth without hesitation. Robsham shook with guitar chords, soaring voices, and reverberating claps. The ensemble performances were particularly astounding as there were a multitude of people on stage, spinning and moving in perfect organization.

Bringing the narrative of the show to a close, the family of four appeared once more on stage. By this time, the children had realized a new appreciation for the traditional culture of their parents, while the parents now understood that there was value in the more modern displays that their children enjoyed. The family, as well as the audience, could now see the vast wealth that makes up these two cultures. The showcase left the audience with an incredible experience as well as a valuable lesson. While we should appreciate the past that our parents and ancestors have brought to us, there is always room for a more modern take on the culture.

Featured Image By Celine Lim / Heights Staff

February 19, 2017