The Southeast Asia Club’s annual multicultural showcase was a wonderful celebration of exceptional talent and Brandeis idiosyncrasy. Beginning with a video sketch about the SEAC executive board traveling through time with a magical stuffed otter, the emcees (Jonah Nguyen ’21 and Abby Berkower ’20) and AYALA coordinators (Carmen Huang ’20, Alice Gong ’20, and Kathy Wong ’20) had the audience laughing and clapping at their antics, which were interspersed between the acts. A well-curated mix of on-campus and guest performers showed the audience just how diverse and talented the nations of Southeast Asia are.

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MASA LALU FUN: Students at AYALA raise awareness of Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.

Among the student performers were two dances coordinated by SEAC: a traditional Indonesian style of dance called Tari Punjari (choreographed by Jennifer Taufan ’20, and performed by Chris Calimlim ’19, Crystal Hariga ’21, Gianghi LeNguyen ’20, Allison Tien ’20 and Laura Wei ’20), and a modern dance group nicknamed N’SEAC (choreographed by Dong-Min Sung ’19, performed by Marcus Lee ’19, Charles Lee ’18, Elese Chen ’18, Mira Pomerantz ’18, Darrow Palast ’19, Calimlim, Tien, Jamie Soohoo ’18, Jennifer Sun ’18 and Cindy Ma ’18), who got the audience to start cheering and bopping along to familiar songs from the early 2000s, fitting the theme of the night, “Masa Lalu,” which means “the past” in Malay. Other student performances included: Flashback Filipino, a singing group comprised of Calimlim, Maia Reyes ’19 and Julie Ruiz ’19, who sang songs by Bruno Mars and Moira Dela Torre in English and Tagalog, and a traditional Indian Bhangra dance, which incorporated elements of modern dance and music (performed by Mrudula Gadgil ’18, Rebecca Shi ’18, Sravya Shankara ’20, Priya Koundinya ’20, Priya Iyengar ’21, Janaki Nair ’20, Pramoda Bapatla ’20, Pranav Varanasi ’18 and Micah Breiger ’18). 

Non-Brandeis performances included dances from Boston College’s Southeast Asian Student Association and UMass Lowell’s ProtoHype Dance Crew, as well as local New England dance-comedy troupe Rice Paddy Heroes. Perhaps the most exciting guest group was jrodtwins, a famous YouTube sibling duo that posts song covers and lifestyle videos. The brothers, Jason and Justin, played songs with guitar accompaniment in English, Korean, Vietnamese and Spanish (their “Despacito” cover was a big hit with the audience) and shared anecdotes about their experiences growing up in an Asian-American family and their rise to internet stardom. 

   AYALA is more than just a variety show. Since its beginning seven years ago, it has at its core been a charity event, originally raising money for the Ayala Foundation, which funds community engagement for Filipino youth among other causes. This year, SEAC chose to donate the proceeds of the night to Project HOPE, a healthcare organization that empowers communities around the world to learn and teach lasting beneficial health practices, with a focus on training health providers and protecting at-risk women and children. 

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CULTURE CREATIVITY: Performers in Brandeis Bhangra explore their roots through an energetic dance routine.

Many Southeast Asian countries have established lasting healthcare solutions with the help of Project HOPE. SEAC raised their funds by selling tickets to non-Brandeis audience members and selling raffle tickets for an Amazon Fire tablet. After the performances, there was a buffet of Vietnamese and Thai food, which was enjoyed by all.

Part of what made AYALA so enjoyable was that all of the groups — both student and non-student — struck a perfect balance of showcasing their talent and having a blast with their friends onstage. The particular kinds of performances were also great  conversation starters for everyone sitting around the cabaret-style seating in Levin Ballroom that night, which shows that events of this nature are certainly suited to SEAC’s mission of raising awareness about Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.