St. Paul, Minn. (May 1, 2011) – Local Asian American & Pacific Islander arts groups have come together to host first ever Pan Asian Arts Festival, Part I, an Asian family day festival of heritage performed last Sunday at the Landmark Center.
The event was organized by Pan Asian Arts Alliance, and hosted about 1,500 people throughout the five-hour event that included Asian storytelling, cultural dances, the Chinese Music Ensemble, food, bubble tea, Henna body tattoo, face paintings and carnival games.
There were at total of 21 dances from 15 different dance academies, and three popular storytellers including Phuoc Thi Minh Tran who took the spotlight with her Vietnamese folktales. Mrs. Tran shared her experiences and knowledge of Vietnamese culture at various cultural events, storytelling programs, libraries, colleges, and schools throughout the state.
Other great stories were heard from Indian storyteller Bilquis Dairkee, and Eh Taw Dwe, an ethnic Karen storyteller originally from Burma.
Modern Indian Dance Academy R.G.K. Dance & Fitness Studio opened up the Dance Performance. RGK combines Indian, classical, music fused with contemporary western dances on the themes of victory and love.
Minnesota Chinese Dance Theater performed “Yun Yang Castanets”. The troupe was founded in 1992 by Ms. Tianjiang Cui, and continues as a community-performing group of 20 dancers ranging in age from 6 to 60.
The Sumunar Dance Ensemble performed a blend of classical court dances, folk dances incorporating the martial arts, and new choreographies using traditional and modern movements. Beautiful masks and vibrant costumes relate the stories told by the dancers and musicians as they danced to “Panen Dance”.
The Heroes, Rainbow, and Hmong Baby Dolls Dance Groups were present with new works choreographed by area dance teachers Mai Vang and Jennie Vang. The energetic all-boy Heroes troupe performed the drum dance, “Warrior”, followed by “Country Boys”, depicting the days when Hmong boys gathered to learn kung fu for self-defense. The Rainbow Dance and Hmong Baby Dolls girl dancers wore traditional Hmong costume and danced along to folk music.
The Hoang Anh Vietnamese Dance Group performed to “Don Xuan”. The group has performed for over eight years at various cultural festivals and events throughout the Twin Cities with the purpose of helping promote and preserve the Vietnamese culture through song and dance.
Later the show turned the focus toward North Asia with the “Doll Dance (or Puppet Dance)” and “Fan Dance”, performed by Mu Gung Hwa Korean Dance Academy.
One of the traditional games during the Korean Lunar Year festival is dramatized in this doll dance. Each participant makes and decorates a beautiful Korean doll, and then manipulates it as a puppet to the various movements of the dance. The dancers actually become the dolls and give their interpretation of this ancient dance of the New Year.
The Fan Dance that followed is regarded as the most unique of Korean traditional dances, with its luxurious dresses and brilliant fans of painted blossoms to illustrate the vivid beauty and harmony of group movement.
Twin Cities Chinese Dance Center performed “The Little Girls with Penguins.” Choreographed by Huanru Zhang, this light-hearted dance has an environmental protection message told as a traditional harmony between humans and nature.
The Japanese dance group Sansei Yonsei Kai performed two folk dances – “Sukiyaki” and “Fuji”. The troupe formed over 35 years ago and continues the long-standing tradition of the Japanese American community in the Twin Cities. Made up of multicultural dancers, Sansei Yonsei Kai fosters understanding and awareness of Japanese culture through the recreation and presentation of traditional and contemporary ethnic dances.
Cultural Society of Filipino-Americans Dance Troupe performed the “Cordillera Festival Dance” and “Ragragsakan.” CSFA is a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve, promote, and share valued Filipino custom and traditions through cultural, educational, social, and philanthropic activities.
Renuka Humagai and Shara Motey of the Bhutanese Dance Group performed “Mati Ghar”, along with the song about a young newly married couple that settle into the husband’s house, which is also the home of his parents’ house at “mati ghar”.
Also performing were the two Hmong girls dance groups, Moonlight and Fireflies. The girls, ages 9 to 13, come from Dao Lan Dance School, which tailored to the Hmong community and boasts 80 students and six classes for male and female students of all ages.
Last but not least, with over 40 dancers, Karen Cultural Organization of Minnesota performed its popular “Karen Done Dance” and “Karen Traditional Dance”, with live music and drum.
The Festival/Asian Style ended with the music of the Minnesota Chinese Music Ensemble. Performing on the theme of “100 Years of Journey: Remember the Past, Honor the Present, Celebrate the Future,” the ensemble carefully selected the compositions to reflect on significant events over the past century.
This event kicked off a month-long celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Part II will be held May 28-29 at Burnsville Performing Arts Center, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The two-day dance event will feature the top talents from local pan Asian troupes.
Part III is a month long photo exhibition at the Landmark Center running May 1 through June 13. It will focus on “100 Years of Chinese American History in Minnesota, from 1911- 2011.”
This unique project is sponsored by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund from the State Arts Board, the City of Saint Paul’s Cultural Star Grant, and Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. It was made possible with the input from an Advisory Committee including Asian Media Access, Dao Lan Dance Studio, Hoang Anh Vietnamese Dance Group, James Lee, MN Sunshine Dance, MN Ocean Dance, Mu Gung Hwa Korean Dance Group, Pan Asian Story-Tellers Assn., Sansei Yonsei Kai Japanese Children and Adult Dance Group, and Sumunar Indonesian Dance Ensemble, c/o Indonesian Performing Arts Association of Minnesota.