StAAAry Night: A night to remember

Tobili Hatcher, Staff Reporter

Although this was my fourth year in a row going to the Asian American Alliance’s (AAA) flagship event, AAA Night, this year felt more special and elevated than years past. Maybe it was the nostalgia kicking in that this was my last chance to attend the event as an undergraduate, or the fact that this year’s executive team, led by fourth-year student Julliana Yoon, executed the theme of StAAAry Night perfectly. 

Cast in midnight navy blues and rich cobalt shades, and decorated with shining moons and twinkling stars, Thwing Center Ballroom transformed into a star-filled sky. Guests were also treated to updated photo booth stations, which included fairy lights, a hanging moon and stars, which helped elevate the photo backdrops. 

In some ways, AAA has struggled with encompassing the entire Asian American experience, as the club’s membership and influence has tended to lean more towards East Asian influences. This could be seen in the food, dance and music choices that were present in years past, in which there was a stronger Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese influence when it came to almost all aspects of the production, but especially when it came to the food. 

However, in an effort to be more diverse and cognizant of the full Asian American diaspora, they included dishes from Thailand and Vietnam, and for the first year, included Indian food on the menu. From paneer tikka masala and naan, mapo tofu, japchae and various flavors of roll cake for dessert, AAA made sure that everyone had a taste of the different flavors from the East.

After filling up on some of the best Asian food that Cleveland has to offer, it was time for the show to start. Fourth-year students Anderson Lee and Jarrett Hsieh emceed the show, filling it with jokes and perfectly matching each other’s energy. Lee’s deep baritone voice, along with his dead-pan sense of humor and facial expressions, paired nicely with Hsieh’s light and carefree persona, giving the audience something to enjoy in between performances. 

An important message of the night was to hold on to traditions from our own cultures and mix them with what the American experience has grown to be, however that experience seems to fit in each of our lives. This echoed in performances, from the third-year girls dancing to H.O.T.’s “Candy,” which is celebrating its 24th anniversary this year, to the executive team swaying their hips along to the sultry beat of Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra.” These two songs defined a generation of young Asian Americans, especially Korean Americans, laying down the foundation for K-pop to take off and inspiring many current Korean idol groups today. 

The energy didn’t stop there, as the crowd went absolutely wild when the second-year students danced to BLACKPINK’s “Kill This Love” and KARD’s “Bomb Bomb.” The entire back half of the room either sang or danced along, showing their passion and support for their peers on stage.

Other standout performances came from the guest performers that gave an equally as dazzling performance. The Vietnamese Student Association made a special appearance, performing a traditional fan dance in traditional clothing, but giving it a modern-day twist by setting the moves to contemporary pop music, yet another nod to how the old can be mixed with the new and still retain its tradition. 

Salsa Club, Solstice and the Juggling Club also came to add variation to the myriad of dance performances. Although a few balls were dropped, literally and figuratively, including a few problems with the sound system that either had the music way too soft or over-blaringly loud, not once did anyone leave or quit due to any technical difficulties. 

Third-year student and Internal Culture Chair Sharon Kim reminisces about her time in AAA, having been the club’s freshman representative nearly three years ago. “AAA [has] truly become my home away from home,” Kim said. “It allowed me to meet an amazing group of diverse individuals who inspire me with their passion for culture … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Looking back at my last AAA Night, there were two particularly memorable performances, including the fourth-year students’ performance—the last one they will have together. I remember how they all came in as awkward first-year students trying to fit in, and bonded over their common interests of dancing and shared stage fright. To see them blossom into seasoned professionals evoked memories from the last four years. Who woulda’ thought they all would’ve made it this far? Yet, here they are.

As if to cue in the last few teardrops, the theme song of “Big Fish & Begonia,” performed by second-year students Joa Xie (hulusi), Caitlin Yambao (violin) and Faye Chow (piano), captivated the entire room, their instruments blending together melodically. Combined with the setting of the ballroom, the song transported the audience into a different stAAAry world, allowing students to reflect and think back on the Asian American experience and how it is represented. It was in every way the perfect last memory to my last AAA Night.