DAO brings Asian dance, food to Collis

by Kay Fukunaga | 2/24/03 6:00am

In a span of only a few hours Saturday evening, the Dartmouth Asian Organization took 200 people on a journey of thousands of miles.

DAO's annual culture night, "Journeys: An Asian American Odyssey," worked to convey ideas of diversity and understanding to the Dartmouth community at large, and was presented to a sellout crowd in Collis Commonground.

The show, which portrayed the journeys of four Asian Americans back to their native countries, also featured other elements, including dances with sparkling costumes, swords, scarves and feathered fans.

Among these was an Indian-inspired bhangra number whose lively, contagious beat led the audience to break into rhythmic clapping at intervals.

In a tae kwon do exhibition, students executed flying kicks across the stage and breaking boards on their heads.

"Aside from what we're trying to teach the audience, we also put on the show for ourselves. 'Journeys' was an incredibly effervescent bonding experience for the entire cast and crew," said Christina Yu '05, who co-chaired the event along with Anik Gandhi '05.

Students proudly represented their own cultures, but they were not the only ones who made appearances on stage. Others chose to represent different backgrounds, with people of Chinese descent dancing in a Japanese number and people of non-Asian descent joining the performance.

"If I had to describe the show in one word, I'd call it 'subarashii,'" said Ian Davall '06, using a Japanese word for "splendid" or "wonderful."

Though he didn't dance or act in Saturday night's performance, Davall did play his own part by serving the attendees food catered by local restaurants Jewel of India, Mai Thai and Panda House.

Deeper themes dealing with the role of culture and background in identity were also dealt with.

Playing the part of Hitomi in the Japanese skit, Chihiro Funakoshi '05 said, "American and Japanese values clash. I've lost my happy self somewhere in between. I broke myself from both cultures and could never completely return to either."

Her lines presented one of the underlying themes of the production: the idea that an Asian American cannot really be defined as Asian or American, but rather as a unique identity in itself.

Audience members as well as performers remarked on this phenomenon.

"I thought it was interesting how there was that difference or dichotomy between Asians and Asian Americans, the sort of generation drift," Ariana Alexander '05 said.

And in the end, after the performers had taken their final bows and the lights had dimmed, many in the audience left with similar sentiments, articulated by Sabrina Singh '05 in her role as Rani in the South Asian skit.

While the easy thing to do is to fall into the pattern of what is conventional or stereotypical, it is important to to try to look beyond these things, Singh said.