By Nina Brossa
Through the dimmed lights and opening music of this year’s Asian cultural event, Mystique of the East, entered Pokémon.
Led by the Asian American Association, the 27th annual celebration was held on April 28 at 6 p.m. in the Kendall Hall mainstage theater, where performers showcased a variety of Asian dances and music.
Every Mystique performance was tied together by a skit from a Pokémon parody, in which Team Rocket chased Ash and Pikachu through the College campus. Incorporating references to Pokémon, Vine videos and the struggles of life as a college student, each skit showcased the actors’ joy and excitement.
Eric Plowden, a sophomore interactive multimedia major who worked on the script, recognized that not everyone would be familiar with Pokémon, but still wanted to ensure that anyone could enjoy the performances.
“We tried to make it appeal to a wider audience, while also having references so that people who are fans of the series can understand,” Plowden said.
After sophomore psychology major Maria Aliya Nasir sang the national anthem to begin the event, members of the TCNJ Chinese Yo-Yo Club displayed their skill with the toy to open the first act.
Ashley Ean, a sophomore account major who performed with the Chinese yo-yo, praised the wide range of acts that took place throughout the night.
“It’s great that there is so much diversity in the various acts,” Ean said. “There is so much care taken in the cues and in the details for them. I definitely would consider participating again next year.”
Action-packed choreography took form in KOHESION, the College’s Korean pop dance team, which energetically performed routines of hit Korean artists like EXO, BTS and Stray Kids.
TCNJ Jiva, the College’s semi-classical Indian dance team, performed a Southern Indian dance called Sita Swayamvara while wearing colorful Indian dresses. The dance told the story of the Hindu god, Rama, who competed to win the hand of Sita, a goddess.
A traditional Chinese lion dance, which is often performed for festivals and the Chinese New Year celebration, also graced the stage. The lion initially danced to traditional Indian music, but later transitioned into Bruno Mars’ modern hit, “Uptown Funk.”
A presentation of Chinese martial arts followed the lion, featuring both hand-to-hand moves and weapons such as a staff.
The first act then closed with Binasuan, a Filipino folk dance in which performers balance cups of water without letting them drop.
After a 15-minute intermission, the second act opened with a medley from Japanese animator and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli movies. The medley featured Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful scores from “Castle in the Sky,” “Porco Rosso” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” The presentation was followed by a performance of Maglalatik, an indigenous Filipino dance that uses coconut shells.
Sophomore computer engineering major Condor Gao performed “Wu Kong,” a Chinese song that blends modern music with traditionally oriental instruments.
TCNJ Dragonflies, a group that blends traditional Chinese dances and props with modern dance and music, performed using silk fans and silk sleeves.
The event culminated with Taiko, a traditional Japanese drum ensemble, performing a song written by College alumnus Tim Falcone (’10). Six drummers, three wearing a blue oni mask and others wearing red ones, faced each other as they played a drum war, in which they chanted while playing the instruments. They occasionally played drums on the opposite side as well, clashing their sticks together as if they were swords.
By the end of the night, audience members were appreciative of the integration of culture and Pokémon, including junior criminology Thomas Daley.
“I really like how they integrated every cultural aspect of the show into the script, but still had it be independent and retain its cultural value,” Daley said.