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Brandeis VSA’s sophomore show satisfies and stuns

Sophomore club Brandeis Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) hosted their second annual culture show, “Brandeis By Night,” on Friday, April 13 with comedic, culinary and artistic delights.

Not prone to leaving their audience unentertained, VSA presented a selection of Vietnamese music videos as guests made their way to seats in a beautifully decorated Levin Ballroom. Intricate paper flowers made for stunning centerpieces and shells with glitter completed the nature-themed display. The stage backdrop was beautiful, with a map of Vietnam that incorporated fire, water, earth and air.

The show started with a striking performance of a dragon dance from the Worcester Youth Nian Dancers. Deafening drums set the rhythm as the dancers hoisted up sections of a long, fiery red paper dragon. Bathed in red light, the young performers brought the dragon to new heights and formations as the drums got louder and louder.

VSA’s president and vice president, Annie Nguyen ’20 and An Tran ’20 ascended the stage next, reminiscing over last school year, when the Brandeis chapter of VSA was first founded. They invited My Anh Amy Nguyen ’20 to discuss the night’s theme: nature and the four elements. Nguyen recalled her dad’s sustainability projects in Vietnam and how it inspired her to both love nature and “love the nature of yourself.”

The third act was a presentation of the hilarious E-board video and “Fifty Shades of Grey” spoof, “Fifty Shades of Blue.” The video showed “rabid fans” held back from club leaders by security. Next, a trio of stars were presented with a piece of paper across the table offering a year of free chicken. Before the group could agree to any demands, however, they were lured away with the promise of more chicken from one of Mr. Blue’s restaurants.

Following the video and its blooper reel was Tarantism, a modern dance featuring a Vietnamese EDM ballad with hip-hop choreography. The dancers in the group moved in sync as they were showered in a rainbow of lights.

Next, was the Non La dance where a quintet of women performers in sparkly flowing outfits used the Vietnamese conical straw hat, the Non La, as a prop in their traditional choreography. The dancers held onto the hats as they practiced dizzying spins and graceful arm motions. They transitioned to more modern moves toward the end, giving the recent dance craze, which is apparently called “the Floss,” which drew laughs from the audience.

An Tran’s spoken word piece Má ơi, or “Dear Mom” made the light mood turn somber as she addressed missing her mother. An recalled when her life was just her and her mom, saying “We had each other and that was enough.” She told sweet stories about Christmas, specifically mentioning how a case of multiple Santa sightings in one day had confused her as a child. Her late grandfather’s message to her mother and her friend’s quest to get rid of baby hair rounded out the bittersweet performance.

Just before intermission, the Hot & Spicy dance team showed off their impressive style with fluid, slow movements. They revealed the hidden musical gem that is V-Pop and at one point ditched the stage to run among the audience. Their act brought the first half of Brandeis By Night to an end.

At intermission, VSA served their signature dessert, chocolate and vanilla ice cream sticky rice, before setting the stage for the next performance, a band. The group of talented Brandeis students played a mashup of Coldplay’s “Yellow,” and V-Pop hit “Thu cuồi.” The dueting lead vocalists had an impressive, mellow sound and were later joined by a special guest who commanded attention with her intense Vietnamese raps before joining the two leads in a soft harmony that faded into applause.

The Youth Nian dancers returned for a lotus dance, as red and gold fans covered their faces. This time, they brought out two feathery red dragons, both held up by a pair of dancers as cymbals and drums were played, each dragon dancer pair stacked on top of the other.

My Anh Amy Nguyen sang softly for the next act, a fashion show that featured an array of Ao Dai Vietnamese traditional dresses, before Youtuber Kayla Nguyen took control. Kayla taught inexperienced audience members Vietnamese numbers and animal names in a call and response bit. Then, she sang special renditions of “What Do You Mean” and “Look What You Made Me Do” with silly twists and some moonwalking.

Later, the E-board took to the stage for closing remarks and a proud dance. They served beef and vegetarian Pho as the night came to an end.

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