GVSU Asian Student Union hopes to entertain, educate with annual Asian New Year event
As lake effect snow fell to the ground all around Grand Valley State University’s campus on Thursday night, the Grand River Room in Kirkoff filled with students, performers, and faculty for the Asian Student Union’s annual Asian New Year festival to ring in the Year of the Snake.
As attendees sat, watching skits, songs, and a demonstration of Akaido techniques from the Toyoda Aikido Dojo, members of the ASU were keeping things moving like a well-oiled machine.
“It was just 100 percent pure teamwork,” said Sam Cho, the group’s Public Relations Officer. “We started working on it, I’d say, last semester.”
The group expected the large turnout despite the weather, Cho said.
The event showcased Bhangra dancing from the Michigan State University Bhangra dance team, Nepali cultural dances from the Grand Rapids Nepali Speaking Christian Youth Group of Kentwood, a fan dance from GVSU’s Delta Phi Lambda sorority, and a traditional Chinese Lion Dance.
Along with entertainment, Cho said, the group wants to highlight cultural awareness.
Jerika Nguyen, president of the Asian Student Union, agreed.
“(The event helps) showcase the Asian New Year, because there’s all different types of Asian New Years … they all come at different times of the year,” Nguyen said. “So we do a general event, maybe mostly focused around the Chinese New Year that people are more familiar with, but the point is to expose the different types of culture we have out there.”
“I think in this area especially there are maybe not as many Asian ethnic groups as there may be in some more populated areas,” she added. “So a lot of people don’t know about (for example), Nepal, or Burma, so this is our chance to expose (them to) that.”
This year, the ASU chose a charity to donate to, a first for the annual event. The charity, called Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise Laos, provides “prosthetic and mobility services free of charge” and also helps patients with rehabilitation, according to their website.
They held a “Minute to Win It” collection, where attendees were encouraged to pull out any cash they could spare and give it to members of the ASU who scrambled through the crowd with jars to collect as much as they could in 60 seconds.
They labeled the four sections of the room North, East, South and West, and the section with the most cash donated got to line up for food first. All proceeds went to COPE Laos.
“In Asian Student Union, we educate a lot of people about what’s going on in Asia,” Nguyen said. “Once you realize how much people are suffering somewhere else, (it becomes important) to help.”
During intermission, attendees were offered a buffet of various types of Asian food. As they ate, the room roared with conversation and laughter.
Austin, a member of the Asian Student Union and of the Japanese Culture Association, who has helped organize the Asian New Year event in the past, pulled up a chair with a few friends during intermission.
Dave Chaness, a member of the Asian Student Union and current president of the Japanese Culture Association, who has helped organize the Asian New Year event in the past, pulled up a chair with a few friends during intermission.
Though Chaness has helped arrange the event over the past four years, he no longer holds an official position with the ASU, but enjoyed the event as an attendee nonetheless.
Austin Knight, a member of the JCA, sat across from Chaness.
“I’m also in the JCA, so I’m interested in Asian culture,” Knight said, adding that he also really enjoyed the food.
Another attendee, Bryan, said he really enjoyed the traditional fan dance performed by the Delta Phi Lambda sorority.
After intermission guests were treated to a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, which, according to the ASU is often performed at Chinese New Year ceremonies. The large yellow, blue and silver lion, equated with a dragon in Chinese culture, swept through the crowd, sniffing audience members and rearing its large whiskered head, shaking off the occasional low-hanging streamer.
The MSU Bhangra Dance Team ended the evening with a fast-paced traditional Bhangra dance, wearing bright teal, blue and pink jeweled dresses and scarves. The last step was followed by an enormous round of applause as the dancers bowed and walked off stage.
For more information about the Asian Student Union, visit www.asugvsu.wordpress.com or search Asian Student Union on Facebook.