Amid the weekend’s slew of Halloween-themed shows and programs featured across campus, one show dared to stray away, thematically, from the weekend’s festivities and, instead, bring attention to one of the many cultures that composes the arts landscape at Boston College. Saturday night, the Vietnamese Student’s Association took over Robsham Theater to present Saigon By Night, the VSA’s ninth annual culture show. While Robsham has certainly seen its fair share of colorful, vivacious performances hit its main stage, it’s hard to think of another show that has brought such an array of creatures, fashion, and music under one roof.
Saturday’s show, inspired by the popular Vietnamese variety show Paris By Night (which the emcees likened to Saturday Night Live in many respects), showcased a variety of traditional Vietnamese performances and more modern acts that exhibited more of a cross-cultural foundation. This dichotomy was apparent in the show’s splitting the two types of performances with an intermission. The first act was made up of traditional pieces, while the second was meant to emphasize modern Vietnamese performance acts. To a degree, this format held true, though modern and traditional elements of Vietnamese culture were apparent in both acts. This melding of the old and the new hampered the distinction the emcees tried to present to the audience about the symbolic purpose of the separate acts.
The lion dance that started off Saigon By Night was probably the most fascinating number of the event, as it saw four dragons parading about the entirety of Robsham Theater and interacting with audience members. Each of the four dragons were comprised of two students. Each of the students’ pairs of feet were used as the dragons paws and, as the student in the back would lift up the other student in front of them, the performers made the dragons wave to audience members as they passed them walking about the theater. It’s hard to tell how clear the performers’ visibility was under the large masks and “dragon skins” they carried, but their ability to do these extravagant improvisational acrobatics all around the theater was impressive.
Two numbers that complemented each other well were the traditional couples dance found in the first act and the modern couples dance that appeared in the night’s second act. These two dances did the best job of showcasing how an aspect of Vietnamese culture has changed over time, as the traditional dance saw its performers enacting more conservative steps, motions, and interactions between the male and female dancers and the modern dance had a lot more hip-thrusting, swaying movements, and intimacy between the performers. The modern dance also featured a hip-hop song, which made apparent the cultural crossover that now exists in Vietnamese arts performances.
An evident sense of camaraderie was also on display between members of the VSA’s executive board, as well as the several groups of performers that made up the many pieces of the night. The audience could see those on stage giggling at each other, playfully pushing each other around, and encouraging those that were fortunate to have a solo in their number. This friendliness was extremely apparent during the fashion show segment, as pairs of people came onto the stage, did a goofy little interaction together, and lined up at the ends of the stage to root on their friends that appeared after them. These simple gestures and interactions made it clear to all in attendance that members of the VSA and the several groups of performers have found meaningful friendships through their shared culture and their joy in showcasing it.
While there is a multitude of cultural shows that BC sees every year, each brings its own unique taste and perspective of the world. Saigon By Night is no different in this respect. Though the VSA could have practiced the more technical aspects of its show a bit more, as the emcees were very apparently told to stall for time between a few performance pieces, this did not hinder the display of Vietnamese culture that was brought to Robsham Saturday night.
Throughout the night, the emcees emphasized the influence that Paris By Night had on them and the rest of the VSA and their hopes that they could emulate the essence of the show successfully to the audience. Many that were sitting in the audience that night had possibly never seen or heard of Paris By Night, but the VSA’s passion for and enjoyment of its shared culture was evident to all.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor