The Vietnamese Student Association put on a excellent show last Thursday. The show was called “Brandeis by Night: 36 destinations,” because of the 36 guild locations in Hanoi, Vietnam. According to the event’s description, “the number 36 became iconic in representing the soul of the city. [Each guild is] famous for a different type of merchandise, such as gold, silver [and] cloth.” The event was held in Sherman Function Hall, which VSA lavishly decorated in the theme of Hanoi. The walls were decorated with lanterns and shrines as well as maps of the streets of Hanoi on the floor of the Hall, writing the street names on long strings of multi-colored tape. 

Emcees Novia Wu ’22 and Linh Nguyen ’22 brought snarky, competitive humor to the event, with Nguyen introducing herself first, only to have Wu jump in to say that she was the “better emcee.” They declared that the theme of the event was home, explaining that “each one of us has a different definition of home, but no matter where you come from, your home depends on you.”

The show began with an introductory video featuring Joon Cha ’20 breaking the fourth wall, interacting directly with the audience as if they were in some kind of video game. He peers into the camera, saying, “I know what you’re thinking… how can anyone be this good looking?” Cha tells us that he needs help for his wife Tam’s 30th birthday party and offers us a drink, which the camera looks suspiciously down at, wondering if it is poison. When he explains how he met his wife, the audience realizes that he is playing the prince in a Vietnamese version of Cinderella. 

The next few events before intermission were hip hop style dances from Brandeis groups 5Babies and JustA and quartet Linh Nguyen, Amy Nguyen ’20, Thu Le ’22, and emcee Linh Nguyen, singing about White Day, which happened to be the day of the concert. White Day, always celebrated exactly a month after Valentine’s Day, is a holiday mainly celebrated in East Asian countries. It is observed by people who received Valentine’s Day gifts who pay the gift-givers back with presents such as white chocolate or marshmallows. The singers traveled around the room, handing white paper hearts out to the audience. After Linh Nguyen performed with the rest of her quartet and came out again to emcee, she responded to Wu’s impressed compliments with a smug, “Yeah, I’m awesome.” Concluding the first half of the “Brandeis by Night” was the VSA fashion show, where models showcased various styles of áo dài, a traditional Vietnamese garment.

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CHOCOLATE AND HIP HOP: 5Babies and JustA celebrate the festival with singing and dancing.

After the intermission, the featured groups from outside of Brandeis preformed. Among these groups were the Worcester Youth Nian Dancers, who performed several dances, including a hat dance and a lion dance. In the former, the performers each held two hats and twirled them around in intricate patterns. In the lion dance, there were two beautiful lion costumes, each containing two people crouched inside. This dance was truly impressive; the people at the back of the costumes lifted their partners at the front up again and again, giving the impression that the lion was standing on its hind legs all to the loud beat of drums, gongs and cymbals. The lions moved around the room, allowing the audience to pet them. 

The last performer of the night was Kayla, known for her YouTube channel Vietglish Fun. With boundless energy and enthusiasm, Kayla danced and sang along with several of her videos, including an on the spot singing translation of “Oops! … I did it again” by Britney Spears, a Vietnamese language lesson in fruits and a guide on how to host a Vietnamese party. During Kayla’s performance, she told the audience that her motivation for making YouTube videos came after watching Japanese, Korean and Chinese movies, and wishing Vietnam had the same quality of media to show their culture to the world.

The VSA executive board closed the event by remarking on their definitions of home. Many VSA members came to Brandeis from Vietnam and understandably missed their families. However, a theme for several members was the feeling that the VSA had become an important aspect of their home, reaffirming the central message of this event that home is what you make of it.

— Thu Le is a Justice production assistant.