Three days before their performance, I had the privilege of witnessing campus club Jam Asia rehearse for their anticipated event, “Legend of the Zodi-Acts.”
Crammed in SUB 401, the members of the group scrambled to find their places and put on their outfits for the big night. Some women strapped on their heels. Others were brushing up on choreography. All in all, the environment was busy and electric, much like being in the city and taking a moment to witness all the activity of the people around you.
In order to prevent complete chaos and display the wide variety of people and cultures, preparation for “Legend of the Zodi-Acts” started in fall 2016.
Co-President of Jam Asia Kirsten Lee explained that various traditions are part of Asian culture, therefore every voice of the group was heard and taken into consideration. By the end of the fall semester, group members determined the theme, the performances and the role of each member in the event.
SUNY New Paltz has had an Asian-oriented group since the late ‘80s with the inception of the Asian Student Association. Decades later, in 2006, Jam Asia was implemented to further raise awareness of Asian culture and since then, the club has grown to become increasingly diverse in its group members.
“There are so many different types of people now, not just Asians. We are very open to spreading diversity, by welcoming anyone, collaborating with other clubs and spreading awareness of different cultures,” said co-president Katie Seitz, who joined the club during her first year at New Paltz.
On Friday, March 31, Jam Asia opened the doors of the Julien J. Studley Theatre and performed 16 acts within the span of two hours.
To expose the audience to tradition and culture, the event included a lion dance, a tradition most prominent in China during the New Year to bring in good luck and ward off evil spirits; a dance paying tribute to those from the Pacific Islands, with performers in colorful flower skirts and flower crowns and a fashion show (set to the song “Milkshake”) displaying the various traditional attire of Asian countries, such as kimonos, saris and elaborate Chinese empress headdresses.
The event also featured modern assets of Asian culture, including a group dancing to a popular K-pop song called “Boombayah” by South Korean girl group BLACKPINK and a fashion show displaying the work of designer Iris Li, who blends contemporary dress with Chinese astronomy.
Besides bringing awareness to Asian culture, students also displayed their talents with performances of modern songs, hip-hop choreography and the fashion show “Signs of Sucksess,” which was described as an “art collective showing the experience of being a minority in America.” Shirts displayed were printed with sayings like “Stoop Kid,” “Stereotypes Suck” and “Ethics,” showcasing an urban style with garments such as hoodies, joggers and polished sneakers.
By actively displaying different Asian cultures and talents at SUNY New Paltz, the club gained the audience’s full attention, especially when free T-shirts were thrown into the crowd, and the winners of the raffle were given their respective panda pillow pets.
“I just hope people enjoy watching the event,” Lee said. “Everyone put in a lot of time to make this happen.”
Judging by the audience’s laughter, applause and overall participation, Lee’s wish undeniably came true.