Dancers take the stage in performances showcasing the diversity of Asia. Photo by Andrew Allio.
Dancers take the stage in performances showcasing the diversity of Asia. Photo by Andrew Allio.

Despite the rain on the night of Tuesday, May 25, approximately 400 students packed the Stevenson Event Center for this year’s Cultural Celebration Night (CCN) to enjoy an evening of free food and performances. The night showcased the heritage of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community at UC Santa Cruz.

CCN is an annual event put on by the Asian-American and Pacific Islander Resource Center (AAPIRC) to share the culture and heritage of Asian-American and Pacific Islander students with the greater UCSC community. The performance-centered event is a collaboration of the AAPIRC, ethnic student organizations, and Greek societies on campus.

Arthur Chen, a second-year business management major from College Ten, volunteered at the event through his fraternity, Lambda Phi Epsilon.

“We help set up tables, greet everyone who comes through the door, serve food, and basically make sure everything runs smoothly,” Chen said. “I enjoy seeing so many of my friends spending time to acknowledge how wonderful our culture is.”

This year marked the first performance by the Indian Student Organization at CCN. As the hip-hop-infused Bhangra beat blasted out of the event center’s sound system, dancers clad in flashy, yet traditional, outfits moved to the cheers of the entire audience.

Isha Kakkar, a second-year legal studies major from College Ten, performed with the Indian Student Organization’s Bhangra dance group.

“I thought it was amazing. We had a pretty good time on stage,” Kakkar said. “We really enjoyed the cheer at the end and all the applause. It was a very high-energy crowd, and we love that feedback.”

Fellow Bhangra dancer Amandeep Singh, a third-year information systems management major from Crown College, reflected on the impact of the show’s cultural diversity.

“When you say ‘Asian,’ there is one type of community most people think of, but there is more than one type of Asian community,” Singh said. “There’s not that many shows that bring together all these different communities, so it’s great that we can all come together and share our cultures.”

Carmen Chan, an intern at AAPIRC, was in charge of the committee that planned the event. Her role included booking performers and securing a date and location for the event. In addition, she was also one of two emcees for the evening’s program.

“The committee chose two people to emcee and I happened to be one of them. It was my first time speaking in front of an audience that big,” Chan said. Despite her lack of experience, Chan caught on quickly. “At first, it was pretty nerve-racking, but, as the night went on, I got more comfortable and didn’t need the script. I learned how to improvise and just go with the flow,” she said.

The evening’s program included performances by numerous ethnic student organizations, such as the Vietnamese Student Association, the Filipino Student Association, and the Chinese Student Association, as well as a raffle with prizes ranging from bags of rice to skimboards.

With the exception of a jazz combo that performed while students took their seats, the performances were all dance routines. While their medium was the same, the content of each act reflected the diversity of the ethnic organizations involved.

AAPIRC had originally intended for the event to take place later in the week, so that students would not be worried about school the next day, but due to conflicts of availability, was forced to hold CCN on a Tuesday night.

Carmen Chan said that despite her fears of a lower turnout because of the heavy rainfall and the event’s place early in the week, the CCN planning committee is proud of the event.

“In the beginning of the night, one of the people on my committee came up and asked me where I wanted the extra chairs put, because the [seating] we set up wasn’t enough,” she said. “We really didn’t expect to need extra seating. That made me feel like we had accomplished our goal.”