Approximately 300 people attended the Chinese Student Association’s 25th annual Chinafest Saturday, which was held from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Burley Middle School. The show was centered around the theme of gratitude, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and appreciating the valuable relationships in one’s life. Guest performances from the Wushu Club and Taiwanese Student Association made the event a more inclusive celebration of Asian culture.
CSA’s three culture chairs — along with support of the executive board — began planning Chinafest in the fall semester, and performers started practicing four weeks prior to the event. All traditional and modern dances were choreographed by CSA members who put on a showcase before practices to give members a taste of the new dances and recruit them to sign up. No auditions are required, but dances have limited space for participants.
“Usually the culture chairs have to go through and pick based on priority,” said Victoria Wang, president of CSA and third-year College student. “If you attended the showcase, you get priority for a certain dance. We have to cap the dances sometimes because the stage is a little small.”
Dance performances included traditional dances such as ribbon, fan, long sleeve and fribbon — a combination of a fan and a ribbon. Costumes and props were an important part of these dances. The show also featured two modern dances — one involved members of all ages and one exclusively for first-year members. In addition to dances, the show also incorporated skits, a vocal performance, a fashion show and a Chinese yo-yo performance.
The show opened with a performance entitled “Dragon Dance” followed by an address from the CSA president. Wang discussed the meaning of the show’s theme of gratitude as well as her appreciation for not only the CSA members involved in the show but also the family and friends who came out to celebrate Chinese culture. Wang delivered the speech in English and Mandarin.
Following the speech, the backstage crew experienced some technical difficulties, so the hosts had to improvise by telling some jokes to fill the time. This humor was received well by the interactive audience. One audience member even stood up to tell a joke of his own.
In between performances, prizes were raffled off, which included gift cards. Additionally, a series of video skits covering topics such as struggling in school and feeling pressure from family to be perfect, were shown intermittently. The characters ultimately relied on gratitude to overcome hardships by recognizing and appreciating the loving support of family and friends. The theme of gratitude encouraged audience members to reflect upon their own lives and consider how they can remember to be grateful.
“I think that gratitude is being grateful for what you have and also accepting who you are,” first-year Engineering student Sion Kim said. “I know a lot of Asian American immigrants and people who come from different cultural backgrounds wish they could be something else because it is easier to blend in. It is important to be grateful for your background and your story and all of the hardships that your family went through.”
The audience included a wide variety of people including CSA members, members of other Asian organizations, University students and parents of performers. The audience was very enthusiastic and engaged throughout the show, cheering on performers as they artistically showcased the Chinese culture.
“I have a lot of friends that are in CSA and are performing tonight so I wanted to support them and watch them express their passions,” second-year College student Anne Yong said. “It's a good opportunity for me to show appreciation for the culture.”
At the end of the show, a nostalgic video commemorating the fourth years and their time in CSA was shown and all fourth-year members involved in the show performed one last dance together. Following the show, a reception was held for performers and audience members. The reception included Chinese food catered by Lin’s Gourmet featuring lo mien, stir fry noodles, orange chicken, beef and broccoli, pork dumplings, fried rice, white rice and double cooked pork. Additionally, Kung Fu Tea employees vended the event, offering bubble tea for purchase.
“We always have free food after these events,” Wang said. “It is always Chinese food, so it kind of stays with the theme. We usually get the food from local Chinese restaurants in Charlottesville.”
Ultimately, the show offered the opportunity to showcase Chinese culture and foster an appreciation for it with the Charlottesville community. It also served as a way to bring CSA members together and cultivate a tight-knit community.
“Dancing itself is fun, but also the community here is also so welcoming and nice,” Kim said. “Doing this dance and being involved in CSA really helps you to branch out. You are spending hours together, not exactly talking, but you see new people and you grow in fellowship with one another.”
Over 100 CSA members put time and effort into demonstrating their diverse skill set and keeping traditional Chinese culture alive in the modern day. Wang expressed gratitude for the CSA members who did not participate in the performance and still took the time to come out and show support.
“I love seeing all of the members come together and unite under their shared Chinese culture,” Wang said. “Some members are not as active but usually they still come out for Chinafest which is really great to see. It is important to help promote the Chinese culture.”