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Asian Allure highlights diverse experiences

Analise Lipari | Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Washington Hall played host to a vast array of Asian cultures last Thursday and Friday night, with multiple Asian-American cultural clubs and campus groups performing in the 10th annual Asian Allure. Featuring performances with origins in Vietnam, Korea, Japan and more, the show was a celebration of the joyous diversity of experience and art.

Asian Allure has come to be a thematic collection of acts by multiple Asian cultural organizations from across the Notre Dame campus, whose diverse subjects range from traditional Korean fan dancing to modern Hip Hop routines.

A chance for both well-known and lower-profile campus groups to literally show their stuff, Asian Allure is a mix of humorous characters, fashion shows and powerful performances that gives the average student further essential exposure to different cultural experiences within the Notre Dame community.

The show began with a painstaking performance of a traditional Chinese Lion Dance, with two performers underneath an ornate lion costume. The head of the lion was remarkably constructed, with the performers being able to use controls to let the lion’s expressive eyes blink at the crowd. Ending with some pretty remarkable acrobatics on the part of the puppeteers, the Lion Dance was a strong way to open a consistently entertaining evening of performances and fashion.

The overall theme of this year’s Asian Allure was that of a journey, as the show featured two friends (Thao Nguyen and Zach Eberbach) traveling throughout Asia (stopping in several American cities, like New York and Chicago, along the way) during their spring break.

The two, acting as both hosts and characters, humorously helped the show progress from segment to segment in their roles as spectators.

The concept of the journey itself was a way for those participating in Asian Allure to vocalize and make known their feelings about the Asian-American community within Notre Dame.

“The show was centered around the motif of a journey, which I think is a very powerful theme,” sophomore and Korean Fan dance choreographer Laura Wilczek said. “The Asian-American students at Notre Dame have embarked on a true journey; a lot of students come from abroad, some from all over the nation, and others are Asian-American adoptees.”

Wilczek and others see this idea as a reflection of the Asian-American experience at Notre Dame. Specifically this year’s theme, “Illumination,” provided those participating in Asian Allure with the chance to both reflect on their paths and enlighten others about their unique journey.

“Everyone has a story. Asian Allure was a way [for] the Asian-American community on campus [to] share a little bit about their culture and the unique gifts they brought to campus — to, in a way, ‘strengthen the family,'” Wilczek said.

While each segment was interesting and well-performed, several were definitely standout moments of the evening.

The first of several fashion segments, featuring traditional clothing from the countries represented during Asian Allure, was fairly early in the evening. It was fascinating to see the different outfits on stage, noting the differences between a Vietnamese woman’s clothing and that of a traditional Korean woman. Even a Japanese samurai was noted in this particular fashion display, and overall the variety of outfits contributed again to the overall sense of diversity and variety.

The Hip Hop dances from the show’s first half, which featured break dancing and other types of dance, provided the show with a flashy, exciting departure from some of the quieter, more traditional acts within the evening’s repertoire of acts. The use of recognizable music helped connect these performances to an eager audience, and the overwhelming impression of enjoyment emanating from each performer made the acts that much more fun to watch.

The Korean Fan dance and the Chinese Ribbon dance were two among several examples of more traditional performance art that were featured during the show. The former, during which performers create visually engaging formations with Korean fans, was fascinating in its use of movement to make a symbolic “mountain” or “flower.”

The Ribbon dance also used props, here traditional Chinese ribbons (streamer-like strands of cloths attached to small rods) to give an impression of ethereal, colorful lines floating across the stage.

The Korean costumes, kimono-like outfits known as hanboks, were colorful reminders of the heritage being celebrated. The simplicity of the Ribbon dance performers’ costumes — black shirts and pants with a dark red design on the front of each shirt — allowed the ribbons to literally take center stage, giving the audience a chance to focus on this visually captivating art.

Other excellent performances among the exemplary group of acts were the acoustic version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” juxtaposed against a starkly powerful slide show of the Asian-American experience, the traditional Hawaiian dance and the final act, a traditional Indian dance reminiscent of the increasingly well-known Bollywood tradition in cinema.

The future of Asian Allure is, according to its participants, a bright one that will continue to be a significant part of the Notre Dame community.

“I can see Asian Allure continuing for a long time,” Wilzcek said. “We have a lot of support from the greater Notre Dame community, which is fantastic.”

The welcoming nature of the show also gives students a chance to learn about someone other than himself or herself an inevitably central component to being a citizen of today’s world.

“I think Asian Allure is a great way for people to learn more about different cultures,” Wilzcek said.

“Everyone is invited to participate in Asian Allure, even if they are not Asian, [which] makes Asian Allure all the more special. It is a chance for people to put their differences aside and work together as a group, with the goal [of] educating the greater student body,” she said.

Consistently well-performed and fascinating, this year’s Asian Allure will be remembered for continuing a tradition of welcoming and sharing at Notre Dame.