East Wind West Wind hosts annual Asia Night

East+Wind+West+Wind+hosts+annual+Asia+Night

Jiya Chatterjee and Rachel Baez

Last Thursday, East Wind West Wind (EWWW) held its first ever remote Asia Night, which featured Upper Division (UD) students and teachers participating in performances and presentations that celebrated Asian culture.

“Asia Night is very much the entire essence of East Wind West Wind distilled into a single evening,” EWWW Co-President Rachel Zhu (12) said. “It’s a night of celebration and positivity — a kind of huge family gathering — that essentially embodies the kind of community that we’re trying to build in the school.”

The event opened with a lively performance of “Gangnam Style” by 22 faculty and staff members, including EWWW advisor Jennifer Huang and English teacher Rebecca Bahr. While Huang was initially hesitant to participate, due to her camera shyness, she enjoyed filming it, and convinced Bahr to participate as well.

The dance preceded nine other acts and presentations, including Zhu’s recitation of her original poem, “Second Generation Ruminations,” which discussed her place as a second generation immigrant in America and how she felt being in such a “precarious position.”

“The poem is about knowing, but not quite knowing, exactly what your parents have been through to get to the U.S., while also about living a kind of life that is affected by both a bitter sense of unbelonging but also a guilt that says, ‘Well, look at everything that went into bringing you here and giving you these opportunities,’” Zhu said. “I think it’s something a lot of students in our community can really relate to.”

Following that, Olivia Coward (8) read an original poem she wrote about her grandfather, informing the attendees about the challenges that Asians go through in America. The rest of the night was filled with other acts including Ashley Chung’s (11) cover of Korean singer Taeyon’s “Can You Hear Me,” co- president Samantha Tsai’s (12) and Daphne Tsai’s (9) dance to the song “Naughty” by the South Korean duo Irene and Seulgi, a fashion show showcasing outfits from all across Asia, and a final dance to a K-pop medley featuring the entire club.

The K-pop dance performance takes place almost every Asia Night; in fact, it was the performance that drew Tsai to join EWWW as an underclassman. This year, she was in charge of the compilation of video performances.

Around 70 members from across the school community virtually attended the performances on Thursday night on YouTube.

“I went to Asia Night to support my friends in East Wind West Wind, and also to see the art the club had created,” Dalia Pustilnik (11) said.

Upper Division Library Department Chair Caroline Bartels, who attended Asia Night, said the online format did not negatively affect the show or dilute the purpose of the event. Bartels was pleased that the students had the opportunity to share their cultures with the school, she said.

Tomoko Hida (11) spent hours preparing for her two performances. For her first performance, Hida, along with Michael Shaari (11), prepared a presentation about an interview they had conducted with Japanese contemporary artist, Kiyo Hasegawa, as a part of ‘The Japan Periodical,’ an organization of which Hida is the vice-president. “We were able to present on Japanese culture, [which is] very integral to my identity,” she said.

For her second act, Hida, along with the rest of Sinfonietta, the school’s advanced orchestra, played a song from the Japanese movie “Howl’s Moving Castle,” while scenes from the movie played in the background.

“[This year’s event] felt very meaningful for me,” Huang said. “It reminded me that, despite everything the pandemic has thrown at us as a school community, there are still students who are willing to create experiences that can bring us an all-important sense of normalcy, togetherness, and real joy.”

Due to Asia Night’s virtual format, the club had to accept that logistics would be different this year, Zhu said. The club could not host the big dinner that usually occurs before the performances nor the fundraiser the club holds during the event for different charities.

Despite the challenges, the remote format had its benefits, Zhu said. The event was more accessible because students and faculty could watch from their homes.

“The club leaders had to get really creative to translate the event into a pandemic-appropriate version,” Huang said. “As recently as a month or two ago I wasn’t sure it could happen, but they did such an amazing job.”

The club leaders hoped Asia Night still brought the same joy of previous years.“We always say that the big goal [of Asia Night] is for everyone to learn a little bit about Asian culture, but I think my biggest hope [was] just for everyone to have fun and have something relaxing and uplifting to watch on a stressful school week,” Zhu said.