Asian Society Sponsors Annual Arts Weekend

Colorful costumes, engaging events, and eclectic food in Commons will mark Phillips Academy’s 14th annual Asian Arts Festival celebration of the numerous Asian cultures represented on campus. Co-Sponsored by the Asian Society and the Office of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD) in conjunction with the Andover Japanese Connection (AJS), the Korean Society, and the Indian-Pakistani Club, this weekend’s events will also feature student performances, video presentations, and a special cultural bazaar in the Underwood Room. This year’s festivities began nearly two weeks ago, with a special cooking demonstration and discussion led by renowned chef and television host Ming Tsai ’82. Featuring the chef’s signature “East meets West” cuisine, the event served as a prelude to this week’s exciting program. More than 100 members of the Phillips Academy community crowded into the Underwood Room for the demonstration, which included a special tasting session for members of the audience. The official commencement of Asian Arts Week, however, began this past Wednesday with an All-School Meeting in the Cochran Chapel. Advisor to Asian and Asian American Students Aya Murata opened the assembly with an outline of the morning’s program and a brief history of the event. Noting that almost 20 percent of the Academy’s students are of Asian descent, Ms. Murata thanked the various clubs and societies responsible for planning the weekend’s program. Following Ms. Murata’s brief remarks, the Academy welcomed the annual Asian flag procession, featuring students from the various nations represented on Andover Hill. Dressed in costumes from their native countries, the flag bearers proceeded in groups with members of their respective clubs following behind them. The opening procession also featured traditional Korean drums and special Chinese lanterns carried by students from that country. The highlight of the students’ parade down the aisle was the entrance of the authentic Chinese dragon, which also greets diners at Commons during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Piloted by Justin Ko ’03, Jessie Pak ’04, and Asian Society President James Chou ’03, the dragon provided a glimpse into Asian culture. Despite a last-minute warning from Head of School Barbara Landis Chase about the possible “detonation” of a stink bomb at the All-School Meeting, the morning’s only real surprise came when Koh, Pak, and Chou emerged from the dragon to perform an expertly choreographed dance to a lively Asian club rhythm. “K-pop is a big part of Asian culture, and performing a dance and sharing it with others is a good way to spread awareness about Korean pop culture,” Pak said. Following the performance, Chou assumed the podium to welcome the school community to Asian Arts Weekend. “The Asian Arts Festival is a great way to bring the [participating] clubs together,” Chou noted. Chou then introduced the morning’s next act, a traditional Indian dance performed by Pooja Sripad ’04 and Nandini Vijayakumar ’06. The dynamic duo, which also performs at such other campus functions as the Rabbot Cabaret talent show, charmed the audience with their combination of captivating dance movements and effortless synchronization. The routine preceded another choreographed dance by Sylvia Zhu ’04, Ashley Corneau ’03, and Thuy Le ’03, who rounded out the assembly with their interpretation of a Korean pop song. Chou explained, “We wanted to have Asian pop culture as one of the themes this year.” On Thursday evening, the Academy was treated to what has come to be known by students as “the best” meal at Commons. Featuring native cuisine from several regions of Asia, the dinner included traditional Chinese wonton soup, pot-stickers, and Japanese deep fried pork, among other offerings. On Friday night, at 1924 House, Andover Asian Arts will present Spirited Away, the Japanese film that won international acclaim for its unique animation and plot line. Winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the film tells the story of a young girl who is separated from her parents in the midst of a magical kingdom. Only by facing her fears is she able to reunite with her family and return to her home in the natural world. The highlight of Saturday’s performances and presentations will be the annual Asian Arts Bazaar in the Underwood Room. Students representing almost every culture and region in Asia will prepare food and novelties for sale at the occasion, which has become extremely popular among faculty and students seeking a refreshing break from everyday Commons cuisine. According to Chou, there will be food cooked by Andover students at the Bazaar and several cultural displays, as well as cultural souvenirs, such as Taiwanese hand puppets and Southeast Asian scarves, for sale. Following the Bazaar, the Asian Arts Fashion and Talent Show will kick off in Kemper Auditorium. With native costumes and traditional performances from across the globe, the show is set to be an entertaining performance for both participants and audience. To round out the weekend’s events, the Asian Society will also sponsor a dance on the steps of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library on Saturday night.