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Students walk and dance the runway at Pan-Asian Fashion Show

April 26, 2024

Courtesy of Andrew Estey
CULTURAL COUTURE: Students walk the runway at the Pan-Asian Fashion Show. The event was held in Smith Union’s Morrell Lounge last Saturday night.

Last Saturday night, Smith Union transformed into a runway and stage, replete with rigged lighting and sound, as the Asian Student Alliance (ASA) hosted the Pan-Asian Fashion Show. The show incorporated a mix of student models sporting culturally derived and inspired outfits and student-choreographed dances.

The fashion show was part of an early launch to on-campus celebrations of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, which will officially kick off in May. ASA began planning the event late last semester, securing funding for the outfits and reserving space in Smith Union for the construction of the runway and stage.

The show began with several models from the Japanese Student Association walking in kimonos, yukatas and hakamas. The models then performed a fisherman’s dance from Hokkaido, which mimicked the motions of catching herring. Nat Loh ’25 encouraged the crowd to join in with some lyrical enthusiasm.

“JSA’s performance felt so authentic, especially with their outfits,” participant and Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) member Kat Tran ’27 said. “They just had such a fun time.”

Courtesy of Andrew Estey
ALL SMILES: Members of the Korean Students Association perform a K-pop dance at the fashion show.

Each of the affinity groups that performed had full control over their section of the show. Each group brought something new to the stage—whether it was the Korean Students Association (KSA) performing a sequence of K-pop dances or the VSA’s traditional fan dance performance.

“There were so many people who don’t normally participate in these groups that came out and organized all these dances. It was really cool to see people were actually willing to contribute given the chance. They wanted to participate,” ASA president Joy Wang ’24 said.

This is not Bowdoin’s first ASA-organized fashion show. Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ASA hosted annual Pan-Asian fashion shows. However, this year’s show was the first of its kind for current students. Having never attended a previous ASA fashion show themselves, Wang and her co-president Nina Ramores ’24 organized the event from scratch.

“I hope this event really pushed the envelope for Bowdoin and highlighted that diversity really does matter and that people will show up to these events,” Ramores reflected.

The ASA chose to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month by bringing back the fashion show because it offers an opportunity to showcase several Asian cultures’ fashion and dance customs. It also gave Asian students an opportunity to embrace the styles, music and dance traditions of their heritage.

“We wanted the showcase to be a way for Asian students to connect with their heritage even if that’s not something that is necessarily very prevalent in their lives currently at Bowdoin,” ASA secretary Anna Tran ’26 said. “I know a lot of people are away from home, and they don’t have the space to practice their culture.”

Courtesy of Andrew Estes
FAN FAVORITE: The Vietnamese Student Association performs a traditional fan dance at the fashion show.

ASA intends for the Pan-Asian Fashion Show to become a staple in Bowdoin’s celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. Although there was not an empty seat during the show, ASA hopes the event will expand next year and showcase more students, including those who may not belong to an affinity group on campus.

“It would be nice to see more students in general—not just clubs. For this show we only reached out to the official charter clubs [of ASA], but hopefully, in the future, participation will be open to any student who wants to represent their culture, even if they don’t have an officially chartered club,” Wang said.

The show finished with the Philippine Society of Bowdoin’s (PSBC) tinikling performance, which featured participants jumping to a syncopated beat through rods that others would move together and apart, giving dancers a split second to plant their foot between them before they snapped back together. Having formed only last spring, PSBC is one of the newest affinity groups on campus.

“Our inspiration for our music was Filipino artists and traditional Filipino music. I hope that people thought the dance was cool, and that it looks fun,” Mary Smullen ’27, who choreographed the tinikling dance, said.

Asian Heritage Month is far from over, and the ASA is looking to host more celebrations before the end of the academic year. One of the group’s goals is to build stronger bonds between the various Asian affinity groups on campus. Already, the Chinese Student Association (CSA) has reached out to the VSA to perform another fan dance at the CSA fashion show later this month.

“People should take away from the show that Bowdoin is diverse and has so many different cultures,” participant Markiane Rivers ’27 said. “Hopefully, the audience learned something about each culture and left with a desire to keep learning.”


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