Arts & Culture

Cultures fuse at Legends of the SEA

Spoken word, dance performances, cuisine offerings showcase Southeast Asian culture

Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Salomon Center was filled with savory aromas and diverse music ranging from Japanese folk to rap this weekend as the Asian American Heritage Series of the Brown Center for Students of Color hosted its annual Legends of the SEA event Saturday night. The event concluded ASEAN Week, a celebration of Southeast Asian culture on campus.

Legends of the SEA featured eight Southeast Asian and Asian student performances, including spoken-word poetry, choreographed dances, solo vocal performances and Japanese folk band performances. A buffet of Asian food and bubble tea welcomed guests during intermission.

Event co-chair Kristine Mar ’18 said she wanted to emphasize the importance of Southeast Asian identity on campus, which she said “is often overlooked and lumped together with the larger Asian-American identity.”

Within the Asian community, East Asian and South Asian students far outnumber Southeast Asian students on campus, Mar said. Accordingly, the AAHS coordinators aim to organize events like Legends of the SEA that highlight the less numerous Southeast Asian community.

This year, Mar said one of her objectives was to include the wider Providence community in the event, adding that the Providence Laotian Community Center dance troupe traveled to Brown to perform a traditional Laotian folk dance.

Brown’s Filipino Alliance kicked off the night with a riff on a traditional Filipino dance known as “tinikling,” which involved two dancers hopping in and out of bamboo sticks like a jump-rope, combined with hip-hop dancing to songs such as “Do It Again” by Pia Mia featuring Chris Brown and Tyga.

The troupe spent over two months preparing its routine and practiced for over nine hours during the three days before the event, said Danielle Peterson ’17, a member of the Filipino Alliance. The group decided to incorporate modern dance with traditional Filipino culture, to make its performance relatable to a wider audience, she added.

The Hapa Club, a culture group that explores mixed Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage and identity, also performed a hip-hop dance routine battle that pitted senior members against first-years.

“Our performance is an Asian fusion piece. We all identify as mixed Asian, and the point was to explain what our club is,” said Jesamine Dyus ’16, a member of Hapa. The performance featured both K-Pop and J-Pop music, she added. 

Among the most well-received performances of the night were solo spoken-word readings by Mae Verano ’17 and Chrysanthemum Tran ’17.  Verano spoke about the exploitative European and American colonization of the Philippines, and Tran spoke about the irony behind American appropriation of Vietnamese cuisine.

Other performances included a solo vocal piece sung entirely in Tagalog ­­— a native Filipino language — by Josiah Jordan ’18, a stand-up comedy routine by Chelsea Fernando ’17, a performance by the Brown-RISD Gendo Taiko drumming group and a spoken-word reading by Archipelag-a, an all-female Filipino poetry group.

Ultimately, Mar said, Legends of the SEA is part of a wider movement “to provide a platform for people who hold a Southeast Asian identity to express themselves and to have their voice heard on campus.”

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