Last Saturday, the Taiwanese Student Association held its annual cultural show, “My Home, Formosa,” in the Levin Ballroom. In 1542, Portuguese sailors came across a forest-cloaked land and shouted: “Ilha Formosa,’’ meaning “Beautiful Island.” Taiwan was then named “Formosa” in 1542. This year, TSA picked Formosa as the namesake and topic of the show to conjure up a feeling of home and belonging for Taiwanese-American students, and to present the beauty and essence of Taiwanese culture in the Brandeis community.  

TSA kicked off the event with a creative E-board video. The video depicted 10 skits showing unique aspects of Taiwanese culture. One of the features was titled “Knowing the true meaning of Beethoven’s Für Elise.” In the video, some TSA members were running down the stairs with their garbage when they heard the music because, in Taiwan, garbage trucks follow their route while playing “Für Elise.” The amusing acting made everyone in the room laugh. The event reminded the Taiwanese students of their home and gave the students who are not Taiwanese a glimpse into that culture.

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DANCING FUN: Some of the performers shared a variety of dances to showcase traditional and modern Taiwanese culture.

TSA reached out to various artists from outside of Brandeis who performed traditional and contemporary Taiwaness performances. The first presentation was by the DFBB dance group. The group’s name is an acronym for Dong Fang Bú Bài, a character in the well-known Chinese novel, “Xiao Ao Jiang Hu.” The group was composed of students and professionals from various backgrounds in the Boston area. While their confident postures and energetic moves impressed and hyped up the audience, they also brought the audience closer to Asian dance culture. 

Following the dance performance, TSA set up a stage to share pop songs from Taiwan. Myles Gui ’21 covered two songs by Taiwanese artists. TSA member Jay Tseng ’21 joined hands with Myles and performed the first song, “Without You.” Myles’s touching voice and Jay’s energetic rapping gained great acclaim from the audience. After the first song, Myles stayed on the stage to cover the second song, “Black Humor” by the famous Taiwanese singer Jay Chou. The soothing melody caused me to recall my memories of the songs from my youth. However, the song was enjoyable for everyone, whether they were familiar or unfamiliar with Jay Chou’s songs. 

The Sad Boys Club from Boston put on a thrilling and vibrant dance performance. Street dance is an essential part of Taiwanese culture; the Sad Boys Club members built their performance from the breaking, popping, krumping and hip-hop freestyle common in street dance. Their dynamic was youthful and vigorous, and each dancer’s passion permeated the audience. The crowd applauded enthusiastically at the end of their performance. 

The first and second halves of the show started and ended with TSA members distributing boba tea to the audience, including guava and passionfruit tea, mango green tea and classic milk tea. As Taiwan was the place of origin of boba tea, TSA members did not miss out on the chance to share the popular boba culture with the audience, especially as boba tea has gained many fans in the U.S.

As I have previously illustrated, dancing is a major part of Taiwanese culture. The 14 TSA E-Board members danced to “Chinese Herbal Manual” by Jay Chou on the stage to open the second half of the show. WuZee, a Chinese fusion dance group from Tufts, performed a traditional dance to express appreciation of Chinese culture and dance. Ten performers dressed in traditional costumes danced while using paper handheld fans as props and performed the role of male scholars. I was glad that the traditional and ancient culture was inherited through generations up until the present. Thanks to these passionate dancers, I was able to experience the charms of traditional dance culture. Overall, the dancers’ graceful movements showed the audience the spirit and the beauty of Taiwanese traditional dance.

In order to introduce more people to traditional Chinese trick, TSA also invited the BLS Diabolo Club to bring a fabulous show to Brandeis students. During the show, they performed with and without the lights. Their demonstrations showed yo-yo skills and techniques with increasing difficulty as the performance progressed. They cast the yo-yo up into the sky, swapping the yo-yo with each other in the air and even manipulating two yo-yos simultaneously. The audience was continuously amazed by these extraordinary tricks. Playing Chinese yo-yo was a precious memory of my childhood and I was proud of the performers because they had developed their skills so well to impress the audience with this aspect of Asian culture.

Justin and Jason from the Jrod Twins performed duet covers of popular songs for the audience. The twins appreciated performing at Brandeis for the second time (the first time they were invited by the Southeast Asian Club). Justin and Jason performed five songs, some in English and some in Vietnamese. Even though many in the audience did not understand Vietnamese, the melody was calming and appealing enough to make the audience immersed in the music. The twins’ performance seemed to demonstrate the saying that “music needs no language.”

The show ended with TSA coordinators serving several  kinds of traditional Taiwanese foods. Throughout the entire show, all the coordinators were well-organized, each performing their designated roles responsibly. Behind this splendid show, it was all about the hard work, cooperation and time investment of TSA members. Most of the performers were not from Brandeis, and, therefore, the preparation process was quite challenging for TSA coordinators. Jiaao Gong ’21, the primary coordinator of TSA, said in an interview with the Justice that the most challenging part of  planning the event was “definitely coordinating because you have to coordinate so many performers, like some performers, say, have their own stuff to do and sometimes they forgot to do the contracts, forgot to send us the music. You have to go back and forth with them and make sure that they give you what you need.”

As someone from a similar cultural background, I appreciated TSA’s dedication to this cultural event. The event introduced and shared the essence of Taiwanese culture while offering belonging for those who are away from home.