Asian event 'awakens' crowd to community

The Jawani Dance Team performs at the 10th Annual Asian Awakenings in Eisenhower Auditorium. The mission of the Punjabi Student Organization's Jawani Dance Team is to unite the various dance forms of India in a fusion with the Westernized dance style in order to spread the culture across the Penn State campus and community.

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The banging of bamboo shoots echoed off the walls of Eisenhower Auditorium Saturday night as members of the Penn State Filipino Association performed a traditional tinikling dance for a crowd of about 400 people.

On stage, six females quickly hopped over the shoots as the crouching male dancers rapidly pounded the shoots together and against the stage floor.

The tinikling dance was one of 15 routines performed at the 10th annual "Asian Awakenings." Asian social, religious and cultural groups coordinated performances ranging from rousing step routines to graceful ribbon dances.

Asian-Pacific American Coalition President Sukhwant Garcha said the purpose of the show, in addition to creating awareness of Asian culture in American students, is to recreate the often-dissipating sense of community for Asian American students.

Garcha said that when students live away from home, they begin to forget their cultural heritage. He added that since parents today are busier, they might not teach their children cultural traditions.

"Asian Americans here begin to lose their roots," he said. "We try to bring it back."

A routine by the Korean Students for Christ that featured an innovative glow-stick performance drew the largest response from the audience.

As the stage lights dimmed to darkness, 10 performers armed with glow sticks painted the air with green and purple streaks in a synchronized routine.

A tribute to Asian tsunami victims organized by Delta Sigma Iota fraternity provided the only somber point in the show. Audience members quieted as distressing images of the devastating Dec. 26 tsunami in Southeast Asia were projected on a screen above the stage to an acoustic version of Oasis' "Wonderwall."

"It was such a big tragedy in our community. It's important to remember that this happened," Garcha said.

The most energetic performance of the evening was a step routine by the men of Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity. Nine members clad entirely in white perfectly executed their rhythmic routine of simultaneous stomps, steps and claps to the cheers of the audience.

Lambda Phi Epsilon President Brian Yawkey (junior-economics) said the fraternity's step routine always engages the crowd.

"When it goes well, everyone gets pumped up and excited about it," he said.

Sigma Omicron Pi sorority took the stage next in a ribbon dance. Contrasting with the performers' black attire, the silky red ribbons fluttered gracefully through a series of swirls and waves.

Joyce Tam (senior-psychology) said the ribbon dance was her favorite performance of the evening.

"It's very different and cultural," Tam said. "The formation's really pretty."

Hunter Phan (senior-crime, law and justice) said he thought "Asian Awakenings" featured too many modern-inspired performances.

"We've had enough of modern. I'm ready to explore and see new cultures," Phan said.

Lam Quach (senior-business) disagreed, saying the show was an accurate portrayal of today's second-generation Asian Americans.

"We need to have our roots, but we need to adapt to our environment," Quach said.