The Lunar New Year festivities filled Laurie Auditorium last Friday with a mixture of dance, orchestra and singing, incorporating both modern and traditional elements of Asian cultures to ring in the Year of the Dog.
“This year I felt like we struck a really great balance between great coordinating and really good performances,” said Alex Motter, lead coordinator of Lunar New Year and president of the Vietnamese Student Association. (Motter is a member of the Board of Campus Publications, which publishes and supervises the Trinitonian.)
“Modern versus traditional was definitely the theme, because if you look at pre-2016 Lunar New Year at Trinity, almost every act is K-pop. Of course, K-pop is very important to the cultural zeitgeist, but it’s not the only tradition. So I thought dances like the Sleeve Dance would represent the tradition.”
The “modern versus traditional” theme was apparent in the announcers’ running skit, which involved a grandmother and her grandchild moving through a city. Their conversation centered around the grandchild’s complaints of lack of Wi-Fi, too much walking and other generational debates.
There were also subtle changes to traditional dances like the Fan Dance that helped communicate this theme.
“It is a traditional dance and though the song is very traditional as well, we picked an EDM remix of the song,” said Hana Doan, member of the planning committee, choreographer for the Fan Dance and planner for the Ghibli Medley. “It was our overall theme so I highlighted that with the song choice.”
For the energetic martial arts dance, Motter incorporated 10 years of his own Kung Fu training to choreograph a mix of Kung Fu and Taekwondo.
“Choreographing that dance was a lot of reverse engineering because I’ve been in martial arts for so long,” Motter said. “So it was about being able to scale your expectations to those that weren’t experts in martial arts. Some of the moves, even if they [lasted] just a second, it would take an hour to gain the skill.”
Another standout performance came in the form of a symphonic homage to the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. The musicians performed the main themes from the films “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.”
Doan helped coordinate the performance after they noticed a lack of Japanese culture in the program.
“I think we took a lot of risks this year, for example, the orchestra group,” Motter said, referencing the Ghibli performance. “They had to transcribe the pieces for every instrument because they were taking a large orchestra arrangement for a small group.”
The proof of Lunar New Year’s success could be found in the figurative pudding of the audience growth from last year. Through a concentrated effort, the planning committee expanded its marketing to the larger San Antonio community, sending out information to local newspapers and event sites.
“Last year we had a little over 300 people in the audience, but this year we had over 700 people by the end,” Motter said. “I was proud to provide a little piece of home to the community.”
Perhaps due to that degree of community engagement, broadcast TV station News 4 San Antonio covered Lunar New Year. Officials from San Antonio’s Hemisfair Park asked Motter and VSA to perform at the opening ceremony for ¡Viva Hemisfair!, the park’s 50th anniversary celebration.
The students agreed to perform the Lion Dance, Motter’s Martial Arts performance, and Doan’s Fan Dance at the event, which will be held Friday, April 6.
“When you have been planning something for so long, it feels abstract and distant,” Motter said. “But when I saw our dress rehearsal, I saw all of our hard work from this semester and last semester in the performance. I think we took a lot of risks that could have been catastrophic, but it shows that when you put a lot of hard work in, it pays off.”