by Sally Park
I have great fondness for ANYF because it changed my life when I joined completely by chance my freshmen year. A friend of mine was one of the choreographers for buchaechum (Korean fan dance) and asked me to join as a relative “expert” since I had kind of done it before, even after auditions and dance selections had already been completed. I didn’t even know AASA existed or had heard of ANYF up until that point. The girls in that dance were so sweet and I’m grateful to have made such friends, including my then-future roommate and a now-alumnus who gave me a lot of look up to. There was a strong sense of camaraderie as a group; maybe because we were all Asian girls but particularly after a semester lack thereof and even many more of the wrong people, I didn’t realize then how much I needed that space.
Even more notable than finding this important space of people like me was ANYF ’14’s Chinese Ribbon and Fan Dance. I remember watching the dance completely mesmerized and realizing for the first time in my life why people go into the arts. This is despite my mother raising me since I was a toddler with ballet, plays, orchestral performances, musicals, etc. trying to inculcate some culture in me while all I remember is being fidgety from having to sit still for hours. Even in high school with a best friend who was an artist, I still never cared for the arts more than that I acknowledged its importance in humanity. ANYF is a motley of students from all over our campus of various majors and interests, joined together by the common desire to celebrate Asian heritage and culture. The amateurs had put together something that touched me in a way that none of those professional performances including Broadway had been able to. I found out later that the dance was inspired by the choreographer’s high school best friend, who had passed away. If art is an expression of the soul and it’s supposed to make you feel things, maybe her raw emotions translated into an art form had come through to me that day. I’ve also obtained the music file for that dance and had it on my phone ever since.
I never told anybody how those experiences shaped me and affected me so much. Sure, everyone agreed it was one of the best dances of the show. They didn’t know, though, how it fundamentally changed my view and my appreciation for the arts. You never know how you influence other people, even in the smallest of ways and it made me want to be a part of that positive change that influenced someone so drastically. And so I kept going back to ANYF each year, hoping to get that same experience as well as that connection as a group. I never did experience any of it again in the following ANYF years after freshmen year, and by the third time around I knew it wouldn’t happen. I know other girls from my dance were also disappointed at latter years and how different the group dynamic was, to the point where some did not dance again. None of the dances I participated in afterwards were magical works of art and they were mostly me embarrassing myself but it’s a tradition and a celebration. I remember watching senior dance as a freshman, and now here I am. These annual events remind you of how far you’ve come and how fast time passes. I find it very serendipitous that I stumbled into ANYF and I hope that others experience that level of positive influence and change. I hope and believe that AASA and its events will continue to be opportunities for growth for many people.