With a diverse array of student group performances, visually stimulating fashion offerings, and plenty of Choco pies and sparkling Bai juice to go around, this year’s Lunar Gala had no shortage of entertainment, celebration, and pleasantry.
The Lunar Gala, presented by the Chinese Students Club, took place this past Sunday in Roone Arledge Auditorium. Started in 1978 to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Lunar Gala is a showcase of student talent, offering a glimpse into Chinese culture through food, cultural performances, and fashion. This year’s theme, “Prism,” was chosen to mirror the multifaceted culture on display.
“One of the aspects of CSC that we were trying to improve this year was making our events more cultural,” co-head Gala coordinator Jessica Cheng, SEAS ’20, said. “We chose ‘Prism’ because we thought it reflected ... the complexity of Chinese culture well.”
The first half of the evening commenced with the Culture Show, which featured dynamic presentations by a collection of traditional Chinese and contemporary student performance groups.
“For the Culture Show, we first and foremost want to highlight the student groups who perform ... something related to Chinese culture ... and then for some of the other performances, they’re groups who we think have very high energy, because we want our audience to be entertained,” Cheng said of curating the amalgamation of acts.
Traditional Chinese performances consisted of energetic presentations by Columbia Wushu and CU Lion Dance. Wushu, Columbia’s on-campus performing martial arts ensemble, exhibited a technical synchronized display of the classic combat practice and art form. Lion Dance’s performance featured the eponymous lions in a fusion of a traditional Chinese dance form, where traditionally costumed performers mimicked the movements of a lion, adding a modern comical flair. Jeixi Zhao followed, treating the audience to a set of his interpretation of two contemporary hits, as well as a Chinese classic, 孤独患者 (“Lonely-phobia”) by Eason Chan.
The cultural offering continued with a collection of general student group performances, including a spirited mashup by members of Columbia Popsicle, the chamber program of Columbia Pops. Their performance was followed by high-energy offerings from Onyx, Columbia’s all-female hip-hop dance ensemble, Raw Elementz, a hip-hop coed dance ensemble, and CU Generation, a K-pop dance ensemble, which enlivened the crowd with their synchronized savvy, modern music, and enthusiastic charm.
With the completion of the Culture Show, the evening transitioned into its second half: the Fashion Show. Comprised of four “scenes” by a collection of designers from Columbia and around the New York City area, each scene melded visually stimulating staging elements with provoking designs and a variety of different fashion styles and methods showcased on modeling Columbia students.
The show began with pieces designed by Zirui Huang and D Wang and directed by Emma Xuan Zhou, GS ’18, a highly stylized artistic display complete with technical and visual presentations. Pensive imagery and haunting music overlaid with the tapping of iPhone keys and “whooshing” of sent messages provided the backdrop to stoic figures draped in black and white, phones in their hands, moving down the runway.
Designed by Amanda Mehl and Zino Haro, SEAS ’19, and directed by Onanji Mijoso, BC ’18, the following scene was an abruptly lively transition. The pieces, designed with vibrant neon colors and shining holographic fabric, were eclectically paired with handheld mirrors in each model’s hand. When not walking the runway, models posed statue-like behind on the stage.
The third of the scenes, designed by Amanda Ba, CC ’20, and Pratt Institute student Emi Stearn, and directed by Brendan Lim, CC ’21, was a crowd favorite. Models bopped charismatically to current hits like “Slide” and “Finesse” as they made their way down the runway, with a dynamic projection of an NYC avenue in the background. Ba and Stearn’s pieces, Picasso-style hand-painted designs on starkly simplistic items, were perhaps the most inventive of the night. The scene was interjected by the models breaking into a choreographed dance on the stage, defining the entertaining, engaging nature of the show.
The culminating scene was conversely the most solemn in nature, yet visually provoking, designed by Jarvinia and Lilly Dahee Kwon, CC ’20, also directed by Kwon. Black strips of fabric hung from the ceiling, with a soundtrack of pounding rain, making it difficult to discern if the music was ominously beautiful or perhaps slightly satanic. Black-clad models holding umbrellas weaved their way through the strips and down the runway, showcasing intricately designed threaded pieces, both elegant and avant-garde in nature.
A fusion of elements of traditional Chinese culture, contemporary fashion, and spirited student performances, the Lunar Gala kept audiences captivated from start to finish. A tradition of 40 years and counting at Columbia, the Gala is sure to return to celebrate 2019, a year of the pig, and many Chinese New Years beyond.