LNYF channels the Year of the Horse through skits, dances

| Contributing Reporter

Justin Ho | Student Life

Chinese fan performers glide their fans on stage.

Shrieks of joy and laughter broke the silence of Edison Theatre the moment two shimmering lions set foot—or paw, rather—onstage. As the creatures’ bodies looped and twirled, glittering against a blood-red backdrop, only the sneakers peeking out from beneath the fabric betrayed the students controlling their every move.

The traditional Chinese lion dance set the stage for Washington University’s 18th annual Lunar New Year Festival, with performances on Friday, Jan. 31 and Saturday, Feb. 1. Titled “Strength in Motion,” the show celebrated the beginning of 2014, Year of the Horse, and was inspired by the power and energy of the horse according to the Chinese zodiac.

In addition to the opening dance, the festival showcased various dances, music, performances and fashion from a host of East Asian nations, including China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Hawaii. With more than a dozen numbers, the show centered on collaboration across cultures and the importance of working toward shared dreams.

“The best part of LNYF is the fact that so many people who would never have before met each other can come together to create something so wonderful,” junior Brandon Tran, LNYF’s director of performance, said.

Justin Ho | Student Life

Participants dance with Chinese fans.

One group performance, the Chinese yo-yo show led by seniors Lawrence Yen and Nelson Wu, began with individual stunts but quickly progressed to collaborative tricks, with performers tossing the yo-yos back and forth, spinning them over and under each other and creating patterns in formations.

“It was all very well done,” freshman Quinten Dicken said. “Some [acts] were more exciting and tense, like the yo-yo and juggling, while others were more about grace and beauty, like the acts with the fans.”  

“I think [my favorite part] has got to be the skit,” sophomore Eric Zhang said.

Woven between the musical numbers, the skit was performed in 10 parts and starred freshman Rachel Cheng as Ellie, an adopted Chinese-American girl struggling to reconcile her identities as an adopted child, a person of Chinese descent and a rural Tennessean studying at Washington University.

Featuring a series of funny, often awkward, experiences, the actors were frequently forced to wait out peals of laughter coming from the audience.

Sophomore Lisa Cohn also said the skit was her favorite part of the show.

“The skit was really, really good,” Cohn said. “The issue of adoption was one that I hadn’t thought about that much. It opened my eyes to that kind of identity crisis.”

The crowd packing Edison Theatre was almost as important to the show as the performers. Silences between acts were regularly punctuated with shrill calls of support to friends performing in the show.

“I think that if you ask any of the performers, they would say that the energy of the crowd encouraged them to perform better,” Tran said.

Justin Ho | Student Life

Dancers in the Korean fan act stage a circular formation.

The LNYF Executive Board also called on the audience to support Pencils of Promise, the philanthropic organization chosen this year to receive the profits from the festival. Founded in 2008 by Adam Braun, Pencils of Promise collaborates with communities around the world to develop educational infrastructure, such as schools, dorms, libraries and community learning centers.

Although Braun was unable to attend LNYF, he sent a video message to convey his thanks to everyone involved and to wish the theater a happy new year.

LNYF plans to continue its involvement with Pencils of Promise, as well as with other Asian student groups, including the China Care Foundation and the Asian American Association, among others.

According to Tran, the countless hours of hard work in preparation for the festival were well worth it.

“The shows completely exceeded my expectations,” Tran said. “It truly is the best event that I’ve become a part of in my college career, and I can only hope that others get involved with it, too.”