Students dazzled by a collection of Asian culture

By Grace Bertrand

When the lights dimmed and the spotlight centered on the first set of performers of the night, a silence settled over the audience as they were immersed into the heart of Asia.  

Although Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is nationally celebrated in May, Rider celebrates it before commencement in April. 

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, the Asian American Alliance, also referred to as the Asian Affinity Group, partnered with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Student Affairs, Norm Brodsky College of Business and Human Resources on Wednesday to put on an eye-catching show that allowed people of all different backgrounds to experience Asian cultures ranging from Chinese, Korean, Indian, Mongolian, Nepalese and Japanese. 

Wrapped around the perimeter of the Cavalla room, students, faculty and families lined up for a taste of Asian cuisine, jaw-dropping performances and sounds that transported some natives back to their childhoods. 

 Professor of Chinese language and literature Shunzhu Wang and cybersecurity professor Zhengping (Jay) Luo, who organized and hosted the event as part of the Asian Affinity Group, looked to communities and families to join Rider students, faculty and alumni in participating in the event. 

“We wanted to make people feel at home and have a sense of not only solidarity, but also a sense of belonging and at the same time promote Asian culture to the whole community,” said Wang. 

 Programs listing the itinerary for the night were distributed to everyone in the audiences as they made their way into the Cavalla Room. 

Throughout the night, dancers of all ages from the Qing Yang Dance Studio took the stage as they performed both solo and group acts that honored their respective cultures with dance names like “Appreciating Lotuses,” “Withered Plum Blossom” and “The Enchanting Dai Girl.”

QYDS Youth Dance Troupe (A) performs a folk dance called “Mountain Elf.” Maggie Kleiner/The Rider News.

Qing Yang, dance instructor at Qing Yang Dance Studio, shared that her studio was invited by Sharon Yang, member of the Asian American Alliance and supervisor of Library Management Systems and Technology. Yang, a former dance student of Qing Yang’s, invited the studio to elevate the prestige of Pulse of Asia. 

Apart from the studio, Rider clubs and alumni lit up the stage with their own performances that consisted of Korean dances from the Pulse Dance Crew and Korean Pop Culture Club, an Indian dance titled “Kathak” from Rider ‘23 alum Sanjana Butala and a Nepalese dance from mother-daughter duo Sunita Mainali and Sanvi Mainali.

Sanvi Mainali, daughter of Rider ‘23 alum Sunita Mainali, said it was her first time performing in front of people and that dancing was something she enjoyed doing alongside her mother. 

As the night went on, unique acts like martial arts and peking opera made their way to the stage and were greeted with gasps and applause that echoed throughout the entire room. 

Opera performer Xiaoyan Huang left the audience stunned as he gracefully delivered an emotional rendition of “Lan Hua Hua in My Dream,” a Shanbei original folk song, hitting notes at the top of his register and belting in a flawless falsetto. 

Another mother-daughter duo, Jaeyeon Chung and her daughter Gloria Chang, sang “Arirang,” a Korean folk song that translates to “my beloved one,” and later played a heart-touching ballad together on the piano. Their performance moved Korean natives in the audience who missed their loved ones back home. 

“I chose this song because I miss my country and my family,” said Chung. “I wanted to stay with a Korean song because that experience is really important and she [Chang] wants the next generation to know Korean culture too.” 

As they welcomed a high audience turnout and were greeted by all of the deans and provosts at a Rider event for the first time ever, Wang and Luo agreed that their expectations for the night were far exceeded. 

“We are so lucky that we got the support from so many different departments on campus and with each of the groups and members, we were running this whole event operation like a family business,” said Luo. “It’s like a big family where we all have our different kinds of talent that we add to in a different place.”  

Chief Diversity Officer and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center Heeyoung Kim expressed her admiration and pride in the AAG for hosting such a successful event with the help of funding and promotions from the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Student Affairs. 

“I was especially impressed and proud that my colleagues really embraced inclusion by trying to invite everybody and not just focusing on Chinese cultural programs,” said Kim.  

The Asian American Alliance plans to host Pulse of Asia again in the future, hoping for an annual celebration of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month with just as big of a turnout as this year’s.

“We think this is a great opportunity to let the whole local community know that the university isn’t just a white dominant institution, as many of them thought, but that we are actually very diversified,” said Luo.  

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