In the program of Eastbound 2011, the Asian American Dance Troupe (AADT) expressed the primary mission of their spring show, to showcase “the spectacular diversity of Asian cultures at Harvard University.” In that, it succeeded: the concert was a largely enjoyable presentation of traditional and contemporary movement styles originating from China, the Middle East and the Philippines, among other places. While the technical aspect of the night’s dancing was uneven, the show’s celebration of Harvard’s incredibly rich Asian community, and the astounding variety of dance styles which thrive among its members, made for an entertaining night.The traditional-contemporary fusion styles, which many of the college’s cultural dance groups incorporate into their shows, tend to be the most difficult to pull off. Accordingly, Eastbound got off to a slow start with its first two fusion numbers. While it was refreshing to see both male and female dancers in the opening act, “Colors of Youth” was certainly not the troupe’s cleanest or technically strongest piece, and perhaps shouldn’t have been the show’s first number. In the same vein, “Horizons,” described by the MCs as the “lyrical reconceptualization of a beautiful day,” did feature graceful, traditionally-inspired port-de-bras on part of all of the dancers, particularly the two soloists, but the more contemporary, balletic aspect of the piece was simply not as polished. Nevertheless, there certainly were several more technically refined dances that revitalized the first half of the show, among them “Qiao Lan Hua,” a Chinese fan dance which showcased the great energy and enthusiasm of the AADT for Asian cultural traditions, and the guest group Harvard Deepam’s “Thillana,” a concert highlight for its impeccable presentation of Indian classical styles.
However, it was during the second act when the AADT truly began to shine. “Li Yuan Xin Yun,” a dance in the style of traditional Peking opera, was a number of surprising intensity. Packed with awesome acrobatics, extensions and jumps, the invigorating piece was a perfect way to open the show’s second half. The following “Young Dai Peacocks,” a sensual piece inspired by Southern Chinese styles, also impressed by exhibiting a new level of technical precision of port-de-bras and effective lighting changes. And similar to the Indian piece in the previous act, another guest group, the Harvard Philippine Forum, almost stole the show with “Sayaw Sa Bangko.” At first unassuming, the Filipino number developed into a stunning display, incorporating incredible partnering and jumps on a series of several stacked benches.
Closing on a fun, K-pop note with BoA’s “Eat You Up,” AADT’s production of Eastbound 2011 was most powerful as an affirmation of the multi-faceted nature of Asian cultures present on campus, and the similarly vast geographic and temporal range of dance styles they inspire students to share. Both the company numbers and the guest performers, whose performances were made possible by the larger troupe, showed off not only of the vibrant Asian community Harvard is fortunate enough to support, but also the incredible diversity among the many cultures that comprise it. AADT’s spring concert proved to be a lively celebration of both Asian cultural traditions and their contemporary interpretations, and the Harvard Art Review looks forward to more from the group.