Celebrasia is the annual event hosted by the Chinese Student Assocation (CSA) and Taiwanese American Student Club (TASC) at Northwestern to celebrate the Lunar New Year. This celebratory performance incorporates student groups as well as professional Asian American acts and covers a wide range of performances including dancing, singing and magic shows.
Contrary to the name of the event, Celebrasia does not emphasize the cultural characteristics of the Chinese New Year because most performers do not integrate traditional aspects in their performances. Rather than focusing on the conventional qualities of the Chinese New Year, Celebrasia diversifies and modernizes its acts in order to draw close connections to Asian Americans. This is important to recognize because tradition is not only actively created over time through one’s cultural citizenship, but it also varies depending on people’s cultural backgrounds.
Northwestern student groups had two distinct approaches to celebrating Lunar Near Year. One method was sticking strictly to the conventional celebration. The only performance that was pertinent to cultural notion was the dance performance by Typhoon Dance Troupe, Northwestern’s cultural student group that “highlights classical, ethnic, and contemporary dances of East and Southeast Asia” (Typhoon). Dressed in traditional garments, the dance group performed several conventional types of dances while incorporating traditional music in the background. Contrary to Typhoon, Northwestern’s East Asian interest a cappella group Treblemakers performed a cover of Korean girl group 2NE1’s “Come Back Home” and added Western elements to the song; this composition demonstrates amalgamation of Korean and American culture. They a cappella group blended added beatboxing, a form of musical expression that roots from Western music, but kept the original Korean lyrics. Therefore, Treblemakers exemplified a hybrid performance that embraced both the inherent Asian culture and the contemporary mainstream culture. Including two disparate types of performance indicates that tradition has a liberalistic meaning and that modifications can be made.
This year’s professional acts such as the Korean-American beatboxer KRNFX and the Asian American dance group Quest Crew were heavily influenced by hiphop, a style of music which does not originate in the Asian culture. Hiphop is a challenging genre for Asian Americans to explore and excel in, especially because of its intersectionality of race: there were no platforms for these aspiring artists to exhibit their skills to the public. With their persistent agency, however, Asian Americans were able to succeed in this discipline and diverge from the forever foreigner symptoms. In Uploaded: The Asian American Movement, professional choreographer and co-founder of Kinjaz Mike Song stated that initially “there was no YouTube. There was no platform at all…to feel legitimate to perform for a big audience. There was nothing like that for Asian Americans”. After Kollaboration was founded, Asian Americans were recognized by the community.
By replacing “authentic” methods of celebrating the new year with more contemporary performances, Celebrasia became more relatable to Asian Americans. Through the use of Youtube and the ability to exhibit unlimited agency through this medium, musician Nicole Tan gained popularity from audience from various countries around the world. During her performance, Tan expressed her confusion in terms of her personal identity and cultural citizenship; she did not feel completely integrated in the US because she grew up in Malaysia, but she also felt that she did not completely assimilate into the Malaysian community because she had developed Americanized perception. Her cover of the song “Honey Bee” vividly illustrates her isolation from one place and trying to find a community where she felt accepted and loved. Asian Americans do not want to be judged or stereotypes by their race, but desire to be accepted simply by their true identities and talent. Tan’s situation exemplifies that she created her through external factors such as her passion and environment. As such, Celebrasia is important because it provides Asian Americans to express their Tan to express her passion on stage.
Celebrasia is a liberalistic representation of how Asian Americans celebrate Chinese New Year; in this case, the dominant group comprises of traditions with historical culturally significant meanings the subordinate group consists of Asian Americans exploring new notions of expressing themselves through novel forms of art. Performances are culturally meaningful acts that are bounded in time and space and provides an interactive stage for the performers to communicate with the audience. Celebrasia is not created as a part of the “national culture”, but is hosted to celebrate the panethnicity; it accepts the ethnic and national differences of racial identities. It not only attempts to reenact tradition by incorporating several disparate acts, but also takes several cultural forms and shapes them so that they meet audience expectations. The annual show supports transnationalism as it intertwines both Asian values and Asian American values. Thus, Celebrasia can be perceived as a type of liberal student activism. Perhaps Celebrasia’s true intent is to highlight the significance of the cultural holiday by including both conventional acts and acts that are relevant to the audience’s experiences.
“Typhoon Dance Troupe.” Wildcat Connection. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2017.
“Uploaded: The Asian American Movement” Youtube. uploaded by uploadedTAAM 06 Jul 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fOwijRIVqM&feature=youtu.be