Chinese culture show features KevJumba, student performances

 

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By Kiana Jones, lifestyle editor

More than 100 students crowded in the Fenway Center for the third annual Culture Show by Northeastern’s Chinese Student Association Sunday. However, the crowd quickly quieted as the stage lights dimmed for the first act.

The event featured a talk by Asian-American YouTube star Kevin Wu, widely known by his YouTube handle KevJumba, and performances by members of Northeastern’s Chinese Student Association, or NUCSA.

“Predominantly, [NUCSA] is a club that focuses around providing a space for Chinese-American students, so we try to do shows that are relevant to our culture,” said Jess Yin, the club’s event coordinator and a fourth-year civil engineering major.

The student performance, titled “Finding Myself,” followed the story of a high school boy named Andrew and his journey of self-discovery through the pressures of upholding his family honor and respecting his deep cultural roots. With his friends’ guidance, Andrew connects with his culture through participating in Chinese martial arts and a fashion show featuring traditional Chinese clothing.

“[Chinese culture] is so deeply rooted in history, having been around for centuries and without being heavily influenced by European culture. I believe China has just stayed true to this and that’s what makes it unique,” said NUCSA President Alice Ding, a fourth-year marketing and computer science combined major.

The organization’s executive board knew they wanted the show to focus on the story of an Asian-American student as they had done in previous years.

“The main purpose of the script was to move the story forward by bringing in each act as a way to introduce [the performers],” Ding said. “The theme of “Finding Myself” was just a way for a student to explore parts of his identity.”

As one of the biggest Asian-American YouTube stars, Wu headlined this year’s Cultural Show. During the show, he talked about his own journey in the entertainment world, from producing more than 100 of his own videos and achieving almost 3 million subscribers to being featured on films such as “Revenge of the Green Dragons” and “Hang Loose.” He became adamant about pushing Asian-American culture and being a face for Asian-American talent in comedy, YouTube and the world.

“As for KevJumba, I’ve been watching him since his very first video of him dancing in his backyard, which not many people have seen,” third-year computer science and finance combined major Edward Wang said.

Wu shed light on the lifestyle struggles of pursuing success in Hollywood and his decision to step back and focus on “finding himself,” a small pun that erupted in a roar of claps from the audience. Wu explained that two years ago, he experienced a major car accident and as a result, he needed three major surgeries.

“Sometimes you might feel so down on your luck that you feel like it’s not worth continuing on,” he said, “but I’m here today to tell you that even at the lowest of times, I’ve been able to stand up and walk out of those very difficult times.”

After his first feature film, he said he decided to take a step back to read more and become more conscious in his daily life before he made the second film.

He explained that minds are very difficult to control, and how people act derives from how they think.

“There’s going to be a lot of thoughts that come to your mind that might not be yours,” Wu said. “You know, you might be walking into a grocery store looking for bananas and then a Kelly Clarkson song comes into your head and you’re like, ‘That’s not what I was trying to find! I was trying to find bananas’.”

The Culture Show also featured musical performances. Lead vocalist Diana Lizhao, of the Boston-based indie-rock band Ivy Line, greeted the audience in both English and Chinese before playing a smooth, upbeat Chinese song to energize the crowd. This was followed by Chinese folk art displays, including the synchronized beating of traditional drums and two beautiful dances — “Phoenix Nirvana” and “Among the Flowers” — inspired by ideas of endless existence and the joys of the Chinese New Year.

Yin emphasized that it is important to show how different cultures are embracing each other’s unique histories and learning from each other.

“It’s always good to see what other Chinese-Americans are capable of, from the yo-yo performances to the Dragon Dance, and even the singing, where they combined Irish and Chinese cultures together,” Yin said.

The crowd shouted above the suspenseful, dramatic instrumental with surprise in reaction to the synergetic tricks performed by the jumping and running jugglers, who spun and balanced the neon-lit Chinese diabolos. An art first founded more than 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty, these Chinese yo-yos are quickly spun on a string attached to two hand sticks.

Partnering with Harvard Wushu, the Chinese association’s new wushu club attacked the stage, vertically jumping and spinning effortlessly into the air, occasionally with sword-like weapons, and left the audience amazed.

Spontaneous moments of humor, like when a dancer backflipped across the stage to retrieve an abandoned flower, maintained a lighthearted approach to the show’s realistic theme: pressures to succeed.

“I think it’s great that all these different groups of people even from Berklee [College of Music], Harvard and some high schoolers came together to create this show,” Wang said. “The Chinese yo-yos and traditional dances were extremely good, too.”

Wu is still in the pursuit of education himself. He said he felt inspired by the crowd of educated, young students for their drive and motivation in seeking their desired career paths, and even teased them for the apparent stress they must be feeling.

“I hope everyone will take a little bit from what you saw on stage. A lot of these people put in their time and efforts to performing,” Wu said. “The best part of the experience to finding yourself is to do something that inspires others, have a betterment mindset of sharing and just doing good deeds. All this can help you find yourself.”

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