How Did Rutgers Celebrate Pan Asian Lunar New Year?

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On Friday, February 1, 2019, the Rutgers community celebrated the Pan Asian Lunar New Year. The annual event took place in the Busch Student Center and was organized by the Asian American Cultural Center (AACC) and was co-sponsored by the department of Residence Life. The AACC collaborates with numerous community based organizations to develop cultural programs and promotes diversity on campus. According to the Rutgers University diversity statistics, Rutgers University–New Brunswick is 23.3% Asian identified (ethnicities of full-time students, both undergraduate and graduate) and 26% Asian identified (undergraduate enrollment including RBHS students). Given the diverse demographics of the Rutgers community, cultural centers and their cultural-based events supports the many identities represented by the student population.

The free event offered a variety of cultural foods and aimed to celebrate Asian culture with various group performances. The series of vibrant performances was kicked-off by a display of Indian dance with performer Ishita Mili, a graduate student pursuing a Master’s of Business and Science degree at Rutgers University. Having danced since five years of age, Mili presented an assortment of styles ranging from the classical Indian dance bharatnatyam to modern Urban Indian dance, which is a fusion of classical styles and hip-hop.

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Next to take the stage was Japanese taiko drum group Soh Daiko with an electric performance. Taiko is the Japanese word for drum, and this style was historically used for ritual entertainments and festivals to summon gods and spirits, drive away evil forces, and give strength and courage to warriors. More recently, taiko drumming has become a mass art form.

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During the event, there were also multiple performances of Woori Garak Dance Company, which operates out of the Woori Garak Korean Cultural Art Center based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The group performed three pieces: Hwagwan-Mu (화관무) | Flower Dance, Samgo-Mu (삼고무) | Three-Sided Drum Dance, and K-Pop Nanta (K-Pop 난타) | Korean Drum Percussion. The performers ranged from elementary to high school aged students.

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Short skits were presented by AACC student interns illustrating New Years traditions and customs from various different countries across Asia.

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This Lunar Year is said to be the year of the Pig. People born in the year of the Pig are believed to be generous, disciplined and hard-working, which was embodied by the performers. This event is unique in the fact that it is a student-led initiative made for their peers that culminates in a beautiful display and celebration of culture.

Radha D. (writer and photographer) is a Rutgers University–New Brunswick undergraduate student double majoring in political science and economics. She has been a marketing intern in residence life and the cultural center departments since September 2018. She is a junior and anticipating graduation in May 2020. Her interests include taking pictures and listening to music.