ASA hosts Asian Expo

Kelsey Ruane

Asian Expo was the place to be on Saturday night. Music, culture, dancing, comedy, food and a fashion show combined to make the night quite the (Asian) sensation.

In a curious blend of the traditional and modern, the Asian Students Association, founded in 1991, presented Asian Expo: Asia’s Best Dance Crew last Saturday in the Connelly Center.

The event has been a part of ASA’s agenda for at least a decade, according to its president, Ian Laxina.

Asian Expo is a huge event for ASA, and the start of the second semester meant hours upon hours of practice for participants each week. The Villanova Room was booked for the event a year in advance.

This year, the show’s title and theme were based on the MTV series “America’s Best Dance Crew.” The Asian Expo highlighted the traditional dances of various Asian countries while incorporating a few numbers based on modern choreography.

The Villanova Room boasted a festive mix of Asian décor, including strings of red lanterns, a huge painted dragon backdrop and a life-size anime illustration at the entrance.

Students and community members in the audience anticipated a highly entertaining and cultural experience.

“Growing up strictly within the Korean community, you don’t really get exposed to other Asian cultures,” said Jinny Yoo, a sophomore and member of ASA. “So it’s good to see the traditions I’ve never experienced before. I’ve never seen Vietnamese dance in my life.”

In addition to the traditional Vietnamese hat dance, this year’s Asian Expo featured a Chinese lion dance by a group from the University of Pennsylvania, Hawaiian Hula dance and the Filipino dances Maglalatik and Tinikling.

The show also incorporated modern dance group Fr3sh Dance Company. The New Jersey based group was a show highlight.

The three-hour event ran smoothly thanks to emcees Stefanie Castro, Wilson Kong, Andrew Lomotan, Brian Shim and Laxina, who introduced each act with their own comedic flair.

Michelle Fuentes was credited with choreographing many of the numbers, including the Maglalatik, fashion show and Tinikling, which was considered the main event.

Tinikling is the national dance of the Philippines in which dancers move adeptly through clapping bamboo poles. The first part of ASA’s Tinikling performance focused on traditional steps, while the second half meshed hip-hop music and moves into the traditional routine.

During the intermission, audience members enjoyed an assortment of Asian foods including sushi, spring rolls, fried rice, pancit bihoun – a Filipino dish of shrimp and noodles – and banh cuon, rice crepes with pork and mushrooms.

“We had 45 trays of food from businesses around the area,” said Maryann Nguyen, a senior who coordinated ASA’s enormous effort to feed its audience. “Most of the food was donated by restaurants in return for advertisements in the program.”

ASA also dedicates itself to spreading awareness of social issues affecting parts of Asia. They invited Mike Kim, author of the book “Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World’s Most Repressive Country,” to speak at Asian Expo about his experience helping North Koreans flee the country through a 6,000-mile “modern-day underground railroad.” Famine, political and religious persecution and the human trafficking industry are reasons prompting many to flee, Kim said.

Portions of the money ASA raised through ticket sales and raffles at Asian Expo will go to help the cause in North Korea, according to Laxina.

Kim challenged his audience to view the purpose of college as more than just the acquisition of a lucrative career. He strongly encouraged involvement in nonprofit organizations and “some type of issue,” guaranteeing a rewarding experience.

Senior members of ASA also performed their own dance number that followed a senior video montage.

“The memories started flooding back,” Nguyen said.