Yale Daily News

This weekend the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium will come alive with music and dance reflecting the diversity of Asian cultures represented at Yale. 

On Saturday, March 30, the Asian American Cultural Center is hosting a cultural show to celebrate Pan-Asian American Heritage Month. Started last year, the showcase has become an annual event set to take place each spring. This year, the show’s theme is “Nostalgia and the Path Forward.”

“There is such a wide variety of acts beautifully representing this year’s theme for Pan Asian American Heritage Month, and I can’t wait to see our planning come to fruition,” said Thomas Kannam ’26, who organized the event in coordination with the AACC’s Assistant Director Sheraz Iqbal. 

Kannam said that they reserved the auditorium in the fall and worked on promotional content, scheduling and logistics over the past few months.

After advertising the show through entries in the AACC’s newsletter, posts on social media, physical fliers and personal outreach, Kannam finalized a lineup of thirteen performers from various affinity groups on campus. The showcase includes solo acts along with group performances from students affiliated with the AACC.

Showcase participant and an AACC First-Year Coordinator Marissa Halagao ’27 said shows like the one planned for Saturday exemplify the strength of the Asian community at Yale. 

Halagao, along with other members of Yale’s Filipinx student association, Kasama, will dance the Tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance that mimics the movements of the small “tikling” rail bird present across the Pacific. The dance form is known for its incorporation of bamboo poles. 

The group will dance to choreography by Resty Fufunan ’24, Ava Estacio-Touhey ’25 and Mark Chung ’25. Their performance will include traditional Filipino Tinikling and modernized components, which Halagao said represent the diaspora’s reclamation and adaptation of the dance style.

According to Halagao, Tinikling is thought to have originated during the period of Spanish colonization, when Filipinos forced to work on plantain farms were beaten with bamboo poles. Halagao said the dance evolved into a symbol of resilience and cultural reclamation over generations, ultimately becoming the national dance of the Philippines.

“Dancing Tinikling as a Filipino American has been so empowering for me,” she said, expressing her anticipation for the upcoming show. 

Along with providing Tinikling choreography, Chung is performing with UNITY —- Yale’s only student group dedicated to traditional Korean drumming. On Saturday, the group will play a style of drumming called “samul nori” that includes percussion instruments commonly used in Korean folk music. “Samul” means “four things,” while “nori,” means to play, and the genre’s name refers to four musicians and their respective instruments. 

Chung said UNITY, which was originally founded in 1991, was revitalized this spring after becoming inactive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group has been rehearsing for the show since its revival. According to Chung, efforts by KASY — Korean American Students at Yale — and opportunities like the PAAHM Cultural Show have helped facilitate UNITY’s return.

“This has definitely been a learning process,” said Chung. “Many of us have played music before but are new to traditional music.”

The group’s efforts will culminate this Saturday along with the other performers including Stella Choi ’26 Sunehra Subah ’24, Annabelle Huang ’26, Valentina Pham ’24, Linh Buu ’26, Kelly Tran ’27, Linda Do ’27, Jana Nguyenová MED ’25, Eunice Kiang ’24 and Patricia Joseph ’26.

Kannam said the most rewarding aspect of planning the showcase is celebrating Asian creativity on campus. Noting the diversity of this year’s acts, he underscored the honored cultural traditions and innovative techniques that both make up the showcase’s performances. 

“I think art and performance has a unique ability to bring people together,” they said. “It’s one of the most effective paths forward.”

The Whitney Humanities Center’s Auditorium is located at 53 Wall St.

Kamini Purushothaman covers Arts and New Haven. A first-year student in Trumbull College, she is majoring in History.