Last weekend’s ‘To Lead with Heart’ rings in Lunar New Year

| Staff Reporter

Feb. 19 marks the Lunar New Year: the end of the year of the horse and the beginning of that of the ram. This past weekend, students, including many representatives of different Asian organizations on campus, collaborated on an annual production to celebrate the new year, honoring traditional dances and music from China, Korea and the Philippines.

This year’s show upheld the tradition of a stunning performance, as well as a skit reflecting the challenges faced by Asian-Americans, which was equally impressive and heartwarming.

“Each zodiac sign has a group of characteristics that signifies it, and for the ram, it’s compassion and kindness. We tried to accentuate that in creating the theme, ‘To Lead with Heart,’” junior Richard Lee, internal public relations chair on the Lunar New Year Festival executive board, said.

Although the skit touched on facets of Asian-American identity, as did last year’s, it also referenced broader issues relevant to everyone at Washington University and beyond, including the relative lack of socioeconomic diversity and awareness on campus and immigration concerns. Cheesy pickup lines, awkward jokes and a happy resolution helped lighten the mood, so audience members could actually enjoy themselves while appreciating the gravity of such issues.

“I actually watched the performance twice before I decided to apply to be on exec,” Lee said. “Part of me wanted to figure out what my role is in understanding my own identity. I also wanted to find a family of people on campus who share a similar understanding.”

That LNYF family began to form last March with the selection of this year’s executive board. In May, sophomore and Philanthropy Chair Rachel Cheng reached out to Action Against Hunger (ACF), an international humanitarian organization that seeks to end world hunger, in hope of a partnership. The organization focuses on providing treatment for acute malnutrition, specifically in children and pregnant or nursing mothers, through sustainable food options and water sanitation in Chad, Kenya and Sudan. The performers and executive board for LNYF have been working since then toward raising $6,750 to treat 150 malnourished children.

During the show, audience members got to see a moving and sobering presentation with videos and pictures of the families that ACF supports, making the idea behind LNYF’s fundraising efforts incredibly real. Last year, LNYF took part in Nightmarket at the Clocktower, and the group recently held a fireworks display in Mudd Field and hosted a benefit night at United Provisions, all to market the show and ACF.

On top of these promotional efforts, the work of the LNYF family was evident across the well-rehearsed performances, ranging from the beautiful water sleeves dance to the powerful standing drums and the impressive juggling routine. Even having seen it last year, I was still equally amazed by students literally lifting each other above their heads in lion dance and effortlessly dodging moving rods in tinikling.

One of the highlights was definitely the Chinese yo-yo routine featuring brightly colored, glowing yo-yos seemingly flying through the air, soaring above the heads of the performers.

Lee had the opportunity not only to be on exec this year, but also to perform in the skit as one of the main characters, Eli.

“Seeing it from both perspectives is really interesting and honestly just makes it worthwhile because you know that you’re a part of something that is making an impact in the community at multiple levels,” he said.

All three shows sold out, which demonstrates the widespread support for both the show and the cause across campus, and they were a fitting result for such a thought-provoking and well-put-together show.

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