The independent news organization of Duke University

Fanning In The New Year

Swirls of color and movement float across the room, while the sounds of fans snapping open rip through the silence of the Bryan Center lobby on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Onlookers stop briefly to stare, looks of wonderment on their faces. The performers remain focused on the task at hand.

It is a rehearsal for tomorrow night's Lunar New Year festivities, the Asian Students Association's annual celebration of Asian culture and diversity. Senior Hyonah Kim is teaching some of her friends the traditional Korean Fan Dance. "Last year I did a Korean Drum Dance, but this year I wanted to get a bunch of my friends together, kind of a nice senior memory," Kim said.

But it's more than just a big year for Kim and her senior friends, performing in their last Lunar New Year. It's a big year for the event itself; LNY will be held in Page Auditorium for the first time, a big step up from its beginnings in Von Canon.

There are also more acts in the show this year than ever before, with 20 performances portraying various aspects of Asian culture, from traditional to modern, including martial arts, spoken word, a fashion show and a capella.

"It goes to show how many people are interested... and how our culture is inclusive," said sophomore Christina Hsu, ASA vice president of cultural affairs. "This is their one chance to get on stage and celebrate their American heritage and their Asian heritage." Hsu and the executive board of ASA put together LNY each year.

The Fan Dance is meant to portray the elements of nature in its movements and colors and has historically been performed for Korean royalty. Kim originally learned the dance from her experiences with a traditional Korean dance troupe at home in New Jersey. The group provided her with the fans and costumes necessary for Saturday's performance.

The performers have been practicing twice a week all semester after learning the basics of the dance in the fall. As the group practices, sometimes missing beats or steps, the pride and enjoyment is evident in their faces and laughter. "I like being able to show people what my culture's about. Otherwise you just try to assimilate yourself to Duke culture," Kim said. "This is just showing everyone who we are and where we've come from."

Freshman Cliff Chow is eager to show the Duke community what his culture stands for. He will add Chinese sword fighting to the show, an act that he compares to the martial arts in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. "It's a kind of new style of martial arts performance. There's really nothing practical in it, but it looks great... really acrobatic," said Chow, who is originally from Hong Kong and has practiced the technique for over 10 years.

Acts for LNY are selected on the basis of proposals submitted during the fall semester, after which preliminary cuts are made. At the end of January, tryouts are held and final decisions are made. "The whole point is to include everyone, but it's really difficult," Hsu said. "Every performance chosen has a mission and purpose."

So does each year's LNY. This year's theme is Horizon, a concept chosen because the organizers are trying to push the event even further. "Finally our culture is being exposed," Hsu said. "Horizon-it's at the edge, and at the edge, all the colors come together."

All cultures come together in LNY as well. Though originally of Chinese origin, LNY as a celebration has spread to all cultures at Duke.

Kim is actually the only Korean American performing the traditional Korean Fan Dance. And, in her group, nearly all of the girls danced in Diwali, the annual show put on by South Asian group Diya.

"Diversity is one of our strengths as a culture. Even in the line-up, you'll see everyone is unique," Hsu said.

For Chow, the growing popularity of LNY's free show is a sign of the community's acceptance of other cultures. "It shows that Duke is a place that emphasizes cultural diversity, and I think that's why I came to Duke," he said.

No matter what LNY represents to the community, everyone involved has fun with it. And with that, Kim and her group resume formation. "Let's take it from the flower.... 1, 2, 3, 4...."


Share and discuss “Fanning In The New Year” on social media.