Asian culture, humor saluted at CelebrAsia

Marissa Weeman

Fried rice, face paint and friendly celebration marked the arrival of the lunar new year 4701 — also known as the year of the sheep.

Saturday night’s CelebrAsia, sponsored by the Chinese Students Association and Taiwanese-American Students Club, showcased a variety of acts, many of which combined elements of Chinese tradition and American pop culture.

While some dancers glided across the Ryan Family Auditorium stage with traditional bright pink, red, green and blue ribbons in hand, others opted for a modern hip-hop routine complete with baggy jeans and break dancing. Lambda Phi Epsilon members also showed off their talents in a step show.

One part of the program, “Pop Hong Kong,” had all the elements of a typical American rock band — drums, guitar, bass, keyboard and vocals — but featured popular Chinese songs.

“I came to support my friends and the culture,” said Newton Li, a Weinberg sophomore. “I think it was a lot different from last year’s because this year it was a lot more cultural, and there was a lot more variety.”

Some of the more humorous moments of the evening came as the show’s emcees, Weinberg senior Alex Fong and Weinberg junior Monica Ko, entertained the 400 students, faculty and community members between performances.

Spoofs of the movie “8 Mile” and the Fox TV hit “American Idol” drew laughs from the crowd, as did a skit in which “Hans” (Fong) and “Franz” (Ko) demonstrated appropriate sporting techniques.

The crowd also chuckled during a video performance of “Lord of the Chings,” a spoof of “Lord of the Rings,” and during a stage version of the ’70s game show “The Dating Game” — both with an obvious Asian spin.

The featured performance of the night came during the last hour, when members of The Washington Chu Shan Chinese Opera Institute presented excerpts from “The Monkey King.” Wearing vibrant costumes and elaborate face paint, performers mesmerized the audience with seemingly magical acrobatics and martial arts as they told the story of a mythical monkey who wreaks havoc on the Jade Emperor’s kingdom.

“We think it’s really important to introduce Chinese opera to American audiences,” said Laurice Chow, who works with the institute and introduced the opera before the performance.

Chow encouraged the crowd to clap and cheer whenever they felt compelled, as “Chinese opera is designed for an enthusiastic audience” that makes performers aware of what parts they like and dislike during the course of the opera.

Education junior Jennifer Chang said the opera was her favorite part of the night because it brought her closer to her culture.

“It just was another aspect of my background that I was able to experience,” Chang said. “I’ve never seen a Chinese opera live before.” Though Chang said she enjoyed the show, she added that a few technical difficulties scattered throughout the program were “definitely a distraction.”

Chang added that she was pleased the event attracted a diverse audience.

“I was glad that a lot of non-Asians came,” she said. “The show served its purpose.”