The ‘Timeless Charm’ of Vietnam
There was plenty of charm to be found in Friday’s showcase, “Brandeis by Night: Timeless Charm,” put on by the Brandeis Vietnamese Student Association. The night was full of color and booming music, both traditional and modern. It was also wonderful to see the fruits of all the hard work VSA put into entertaining us and opening our minds to the cultural beauty (and delicious foods) of Vietnam. I knew the moment I saw Levin Ballroom that this would not be a typical performance; the room was set up with many colorful circular tables covered in paper flowers and Vietnamese snacks.
The show kicked off with an energetic dragon dance set to loud drumming. The opening speeches by executive board members got everyone hyped for the rest of the show. Then, the wisecracking emcees warmed up the crowd, introducing a “50 Shades of Grey” parody featuring the entire e-board signing contracts for free chicken.
This was followed by a modern interpretive dance to a Vietnamese pop song and a traditional dance with nón lá, a Vietnamese conical hat. These hats, which I had only ever seen in movies, were beautiful and the performers used them as extensions of their bodies; their harmony created a type of dance I had never before experienced. The two dances complemented each other wonderfully, one showing off a new look at a country’s music and dance that fits right in with modern pop music, the other featuring the more classical traditions of Vietnam.
VSA Vice President An Tran ’20 gave an emotional, heartwarming tribute to her late mother which brought tears to my eyes and showed the beauty of love and family. This moment of tenderness was followed by a sharp modern dance that lived up to its title, “Hot and Spicy.”
Following an intermission that included tasty ice cream and sticky rice, the hosts brought us right back into the show by introducing a band that performed a mashup of Coldplay and VPOP rap, and the two seemingly unrelated genres blended together surprisingly well! We were then treated to two performances, an intricate lotus dance and another, extra-acrobatic dragon dance during which the dancers even came out into the audience.
We then enjoyed a fashion show of the Ao Dai, a traditional Vietnamese dress, which was as elegant as the evening itself. The next performance of the night was by Kayla Nguyen, the bubbly personality behind the YouTube channel “Vietglish Fun.” Not only did she interact with her videos to teach us numbers and animals in Vietnamese, but she also played games with the audience and sang parodies of the pop songs “What Do You Mean?” and “Look What You Made Me Do,” which were hysterical. She successfully drew on her own experiences (and accents) to entertain everyone. Finally, the VSA e-board performed a self-choreographed dance to finish the night on a high-spirited note, and everyone chowed down on pho for dinner.
The time and energy that went into the night made for an amazing show. Tran told the Justice that the best part of the entire process was seeing the club come together as a whole, that their unity shined on Friday. I can’t wait for the next time VSA comes together to put on a performance — I’ll be the first in line to see it!