On Friday night, about 200 University of Michigan students, families and alums lined the halls of the Michigan League eager to enter the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre for the annual Generation Asian/Pacific American’s cultural performance. The event, advertised to be the largest Pan-Asian cultural show in the Midwest, has been a tradition of GenAPA since the group’s founding in 1995.
The show displayed various cultural arts performed by Michigan Taekwondo, rXn Traditional, Kappa Phi Lambda and Pi Alpha Phi, K-Motion, Hula Michigan, VeryUs, Sinaboro, Seoul Juice x Emily & Jae, DVN Guy-Girl Traditional, and DB3, all affiliated with Chinese, Pacific Islander, Vietnamese and Korean backgrounds. Each act was meant to reflect the unique experiences and traditions of their respective cultures.
This year, the show was called “TECHNICOLOR: Vivid Past. Vibrant Future.” GenAPA board member Jenny Yu, a Business freshman, said the club and event aimed to explain how cultural traditions of the past affect the future.
“We started planning back in the beginning of November,” Jenny said. “This year we were aiming for a theme that would represent how the past has influenced our future. That is why the tagline has been ‘vivid past and vibrant future’.”
Yu noted the recent changes in mass media that have increased the prominence of A/PIA people in the eyes of the public, like the blockbuster film “Crazy Rich Asians.” YouTuber David So, whose main channel GeniusBrain (originally called DavidSoComedy) amasses more than 1.4 million subscribers, headlined the event.
So performed a 30-minute act, telling stories about growing up in a community with few other Asian Americans and having a hard time fitting in at school. However, So said things have changed since then.
Yu wanted the show to offer a diverse portrayal of different Asian cultural backgrounds.
“We really hope to bring a culture show that represents different parts of Asian culture,” Yu said. “I think one of the things we see, that people most recognize East Asians when they think about Asian culture. We felt that we wanted to bring a diverse show that would represent pan-Asian culture.”
Sporting her Kappa Phi Lambda sorority jacket, U-M alum Arielle Chen was attending the event to support her sorority members, who were performing a collaborative dance performance with the fraternity Pi Alpha Phi. Kappa Phi Lambda is an Asian American Interest sorority. Both are organizations open to, but not excluded to, Asian American students on campus.
“I am a Kappa alum,” Chen said. “I am here to support them, especially my kiddos from before.”
Nursing freshman Helen Nguyen and Business senior Sandra Plamondon, both of whom participated in the DVN Girl-Guy Traditional dance, a traditional Vietnamese leaf that dance, said they were excited to perform in front of a large crowd.
“It’s a girl-guy traditional,” Nguyen said. “It is where we wear traditional dresses and we are dancing to traditional music with leaf hats.”
Plamondon said cultural events like this one serve as a communal learning experience and provide exposure to new cultures.
“It is important for people to experience different types of cultures, even if it is something of like whatever culture they are a part of,” Plamondon said. “Having others experience it helps understanding of other people and it's a part of other people’s identities, and I think it’s a good way of like bringing the community together.”