23rd annual Lunar New Year Festival finds ‘Strength Within’
Lunar New Year Festival (LNYF) rang in the year of the pig this past weekend with the performance of its 23rd annual performance, “The Strength Within.”
Aptly named, the production not only revealed its strength through the quality of its performances but also through the important issues raised in its skit, in which college student Jen, played by freshman Anne He, struggles to embody society’s image of the perfect Asian-American. The thoughtful and vulnerably performed skit tackled topics such as mental health, homophobia and the fallacy of the “model minority.”
The powerful skit was complemented by a variety of stellar dance and other movement performances, representing a wide variety of East-Asian cultures, including Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Dai, Hawaiian and Vietnamese traditions.
The show immediately energized audience members with an exciting and acrobatically astounding “Lion Dance.” The performances that followed, woven throughout the skit, continued to engage audience members with numerous styles such “Hula” and “Chinese Fan.”
Rhythm proved to be one of the strongest elements of the production, as performances including the powerful “Standing Drums,” an impressive appearance by the Washington University Juggling Club and “Tinikling,” a traditional Filipino dance featuring 10-foot bamboo poles, pulsed with energy and were both visually and auditorily electrifying.
The production, headed by LNYF executive directors and seniors Dawn Lum and Doyle Lokitiyakul, also made an important contribution to the St. Louis community by partnering with Kingdom House, a local non-profit dedicated to supporting low-income St. Louis residents. The collaboration with Kingdom House was organized by LNYF philanthropy chair Han Ju Seo.
LNYF also served the Wash. U. community by providing a platform for performers and all those involved behind the scenes to share their cultural traditions with their peers.
“For me, it’s really meaningful to be able to celebrate Lunar New Year, away from my family especially,” freshman Alice Nguyen, who performed in the “Vietnamese Lotus Dance,” a celebration of the national flower of Vietnam that closed the show, said. “And it’s meaningful for me to represent Vietnamese culture at least in one way, and that’s to dance. People are trying to celebrate the new year away from their family and trying to in some way connect to their culture and also build a community out of Asian-Americans who have to be away from their family.”
The production was not only a fun and enjoyable experience but also served as an opportunity for audience members to learn more about their peers’ cultural backgrounds, a value of LNYF that Nguyen reiterated.
“[I hope audiences] take away some sort of taste of our cultures and what it means to us to celebrate the new year in this way.”