On Saturday evening, more than 80 University of Michigan students came together in the Michigan League to celebrate the Chinese Students Association’s annual Lunar Gala.
The gala aims to mark the beginning of a new year according to the lunisolar Chinese calendar, a holiday traditionally celebrated in many countries across Asia. The evening involved food, raffles, cultural demonstrations and a wide range of music and dance performances.
Attendees wore dresses and ties according to the night’s formal theme, sitting on red velvet chairs at banquet tables decorated with white and yellow balloons — all traditional lucky colors for the new year. Tommy Xue, CSA treasurer and Engineering junior, was the master of ceremonies for the event.
Xue said everyone attending the event seemed to enjoy the night.
“I didn’t expect everyone to dress up so fancily,” Xue said. “It’s like prom all over again.”
After attendees served themselves an array of food traditionally associated with the Lunar New Year, the gala’s two emcees took up their microphones to welcome the crowd to the evening’s festivities, expressing how glad they were to spend the night with all those who were unable to go home this year to celebrate the holiday.
The gala’s program featured representatives from various student groups on campus within the Asian community. Groups performed not only on behalf of the CSA and the Korean Student Association, but also a Japanese cover band and the Hong Kong Student Association.
K-Pop dance group Female Gayo opened the gala’s program as the first performance of the night. The all-female dance team, which operates under the Korean Student Association, performs routines to Korean pop music such as “Solo” by South Korean artist Jennie, as well as to non-Korean music such as “I Like It” by artists Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin.
Female Gayo was followed by DB3, an all-male dance crew whose name abbreviates the Korean word “daebak,” meaning “awesome” or “cool.” Like Female Gayo, DB3’s routine incorporates both contemporary Korean music and contemporary American music. The energy of the crowd was the highest when the group danced to “Fake Love” by popular K-Pop group BTS.
Sarah Kim, an LSA freshman and member of Female Gayo, said this was her first time performing in collaboration with the CSA.
“I think it’ll be a fun performance,” Kim said. “I’ve never been to this event because I’m a freshman, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.”
Many of the upperclassmen attending the event have been doing so for years. However, Engineering junior Nancy Wang said it has not always been easy for members of the Asian community on campus to find a place to come together and celebrate the new year.
“I always wanted to do a Chinese New Year celebration, but I didn’t know where to go,” Wang said.
LSA sophomore Alice Liu, CSA events chair and a photographer for The Daily, said she was looking for a space to express her culture when she first entered campus as a freshman last year.
“I think I just really wanted to be able to find a community, especially with people I could identify with,” Liu said.
The main objective of the gala, Liu said, was to “provide a sort of space where people can feel almost like part of family.” She said that in many Asian communities, the Lunar New Year is important holiday for families in particular. Liu commented that the CSA was hoping to provide the “welcoming energy” of a family-oriented holiday throughout the evening, especially for the students who are still new on campus.
During intermission, attendees in formal dresses and ties took photos before a background of balloons spelling out “Lunar New Year,” holding pink Peppa Pig props in honor of the Year of the Pig.
The crowd at the gala was smaller in number than in years past. William Wong, CSA events chair and LSA junior, said the smaller crowd was primarily due to limited space, since during the planning process there were few rooms available for booking.
“This year, we’re getting around 80 to 90 (people), but usually we’re at a bigger venue,” Wong said.
Though less people were physically able to attend this year’s event, Liu said she believes the more intimate gathering gave attendees a higher-quality experience than in previous years.
“I think that we put a lot more attention into the details, especially since we didn’t have to accomodate, like, twice as many people,” Liu said.
During the second half of the night’s program, groups focusing on more traditional cultural performances took the stage. First came the Annappella Acappella Group, a vocal team of male and female performers of all years and majors, with their own adaptation of Chinese songs. The Michigan Taekwondo Club delivered a demonstration that rounded out the evening, in which one member completed an kick that shot bits of cabbage throughout the room, inciting the cheers from the audience.
Liu said the increasing diversity of the gala’s performances were a major factor in the night’s success.
“It was nice to see that we had more performers, so I think next year we’ll do more of that,” Liu said.
CORRECTION: The article has been updated to reflect the fact that it was hosted by the Chinese Student Association, not the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. The name of the event, the Lunar Gala, has also been corrected within the article, as has the length of time the event has been around. Additionally, Alice Liu's school has been corrected from Business to LSA.