The Pause Mane Stage was bursting with energy Saturday night at the 2020 Lunar New Year Celebration. The event celebrated the beginning of the year of the Metal or Golden Rat, which is a combination that won’t be around for another 60 years. The rat is one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals and gold or metal is one of the five zodiac elements. The animals and elements rotate around for a 60 year cycle of different combinations.
The celebration was put on as a collaboration between the Japanese Organization Yay (JOY), D-VINE Entertainment, the Chinese Culture Club (CCC), Korean Culture Association (KCA), the Vietnamese Organization (VNO), Team Tibet (TT) and the Chinese Instrumental Association (CIA). The event was brought to the public with special thanks to the Taylor Center, the Student Government Association, the Asian American Student Organization and the Pause Tech.
The night was a celebration of Asian cultures through performances, dances, songs and skits from St. Olaf’s multi-cultural array of Asian-centric organizations.
Although scripted jokes between acts and a stoic seating arrangement suggested a formal performance celebrating the Lunar New Year, the audience turned the celebration into something more playful. Nearly every time a new act started, whooping cheers could be heard from audience members cheering on their friends. As the event stretched late into the evening, it turned into a spirited celebration of both community and culture.
Memorable acts included CIA’s debut performance of “A Laughter in the Vast Sea.” The song demonstrated the beauty of several Chinese instruments and blew away the audience with the performers’ musical ability.
Forrest Wang ’22 gave an especially poignant performance of the song “White City Wall.” His beautiful voice matched the theme of the song perfectly, as the piece pays tribute to those fighting the coronavirus. A video displayed behind the singer showed disturbing images of the horrors of the fight against the virus, but the end of the song portrayed a message of hope amidst so much sorrow.
One of the most exciting acts of the evening was the performance of the Taiko drumming group, which performed a tribute to the waterbenders of the popular Nickelodeon show “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The performers played the drums in time while waving their arms and giving short shouts in unison. The group choreographed the performance artfully and executed the dance and drumming perfectly in time. Taiko drumming is surprisingly riveting – I would not have guessed that watching people drum in unison could be so interesting.
Other memorable performances included KCA and D-VINE’s rock band tribute to the song “Say Yes” by Loco and Punch. The group rapped, sang and jammed out on guitars, drums and an electric bass to a rock version of the song, drawing excited feedback from the crowd.
CCC also performed a silly skit on “How to Make a Dumpling.” Employing intricate giant drawings of vegetables and human actors as ingredients, the skit cleverly showed the audience how to actually make a dumpling while making the audience giggle as a human ball of ingredients was wrapped in a giant sheet of dumpling “dough.”
Surprisingly, the biggest problem with the event was that the snacks were just too good. Adorably wrapped snack packs filled with rice cakes, seaweed, Pocky and candy were handed out, along with a free bubble tea bar. St. Olaf students seem to go crazy for bubble tea, and the decision to serve all of the attendees bubble tea and delicious snacks turned out to be a risky choice. Intermission stretched into a half hour as a packed Pause-full of people had to go through a gigantic line to quench their bubble tea thirst.
In the end, the event was a spirited celebration of diversity and many different cultures. The wide array of performances, from careful, dazzling routines to awkwardly unprepared acts all earned excited feedback from a crowd that was ready to have fun this Lunar New Year.