On the Schaeffer Theatre stage, students offered performances celebrating Asian culture as part of this year’s Sangai Asia Night on Jan. 24.

One floor below the stage, in the theater department’s scene shop, Bates photographer Theophil Syslo had a pop-up studio at the ready, and he captured these portraits as each performer completed their act.

A Night in Bollywood

Sukanya Shukla ’20 of Dehradun, India, and Anne Trapp ’20 of Brunswick, Maine, members of the Bollywood Dance Team. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Dancing to music from several Bollywood hits from recent years, including “Naccde de Saare” from Baar Baar Dekho and “Chogada” from Loveyatri. 

Performers: The Bollywood Dance Team

What they’re wearing: The women wear lehengas; the men, kurtas.

It’s “bright colors in your face,” says Armaan Mecca ’21 of Chennai, India. “Every time we do Sangai Asia Night, we try to embrace the culture, so that’s why the costumes are sparkly and bright. If you were dancing in India or going to a wedding, this is what you would wear.” 

Dancing for Mom: “Back home, there is a lot of Bollywood dancing,” says Mecca. “I was never really a part of it much — my family members dance, but I just never really felt the need to dance. 

“Once I was here, and I saw that Bates celebrated Asian culture in such a way, I just knew that I had to be a part of it. The fact that it was Bollywood made it even more special for my family. Just watching videos of me do this makes my mum really happy.” 

Sharing History
Portraits shot in the Scene Shop during Sangai Asia Night January 24, 2020.

Xuchong Shao ’20 of Shanghai, who participated in the fashion show. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Fashion

Performer: Xuchong Shao ‘20 of Shanghai

What he’s wearing: A traditional Han Chinese outfit, often called Hanfu. “It is a way to relate myself to my ancestry and to the rich history that my country has,” Shao says.

Going Gamelan
Portraits shot in the Scene Shop during Sangai Asia Night January 24, 2020.

The Bates Gamelan Ensemble: from top left, Antonio Heredia Soto ’20, social sciences librarian Christine Murray, lecturer in Japanese Keiko Konoeda, Dan Colombo ’21, Gamelan director Gina Fatone, Michael Lombardi ’21, and Vanessa Paolella ’21. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Gamelan, the percussion-heavy traditional ensemble music of several Indonesian cultures

Performers: The college’s Gamelan Ensemble

What they’re wearing: “They’re central Javanese shirts that Gina [Fatone, an associate professor of music and the Gamelan ensemble director] got in Java when she was doing research there,” says Michael Lombardi ’21 of Kittery, Maine.

A group effort: “Everyone spent so much time preparing — they’re just really wanting to put on a good show,” says  Antonio Heredia Soto ’20 of Stamford, Conn.

Talking Taiko
Portraits shot in the Scene Shop during Sangai Asia Night January 24, 2020.

The Bates Taiko Club. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Taiko, a form of Japanese drumming. This group’s performance also involved dancing and chanting.

Performers: The Bates Taiko Club. “Taiko is passed down through word of mouth, which is why I feel really honored to be able to pass down the information from all these years to the new members who are coming in each year,” says member Noah Cowper ’21 of Rye Beach, N.H.

What they’re wearing: Traditional clothing of taiko drummers, including hachimaki (headbands) which feature the word “victory.”

To the Beat
Portraits shot in the Scene Shop during Sangai Asia Night January 24, 2020

Ivy Nguyen ’21 of Ho Chi Minh City and Sofia Esquibies ’21 of Rocky Hill, Conn. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Hip hop choreography to Chinese songs like “Gon Xi Fa Cai” by Higher Brothers

Performers: 2BEATS, the Bates hip hop dance club. “These years, as Asian pop artists such as Higher Brothers are getting more and more recognition, this is an opportunity for us to show our support for these Asian artists and at the same time be proud of them,” says 2BEATS president Judy Wang ’20.

Full circle: “This will be my last performance at Sangai Asia at Bates,” says Wang. “I started my dancing career four years ago. At Sangai Asia, the crowd really encouraged me to keep dancing, to join the group 2BEATS, and finally, this year, to organize 2BEATS. This is where I feel I belong at Bates.” 

Dancing in the Han Court
From left, Yoyo Tang ’22, Scarlett Wang '23, Sophia Zhang '23, and Yun Zhang '23.

From left, Leyouyou Tang ’22, Sijia Wang ’23, Sophia Zhang ’23, and Yun Zhang ’23. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Dance 

Performers: Sophia Zhang ’23, Sijia Wang ’23, Yun Zhang ’23, Leyouyou Tang ‘22, all from China.

What they’re wearing: Traditional outfits from the Han Dynasty

Happy coincidence: Sangai Asia Night took place the day before the Chinese lunar new year — for some of the dancers, it was their first new year away from home.

Tying It All Together
Portraits shot in the Scene Shop during Sangai Asia Night January 24, 2020.

Muhammad Ghasharib Ali Shoukat ’20 and Martha Reyes ’23, emcees of Sangai Asia Night. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Performance: Emcees of Sangai Asia Night

Performers: Muhammad Ghasharib Ali Shoukat ’20 of Karachi, Pakistan, and Martha Reyes ’23 of Los Angeles  

What Shoukat’s wearingShalwar kameez, a traditional South Asian outfit comprising a long tunic and wide pants that narrow at the bottom. “The important part of it is that my country’s flag is also green and white, so I’m representing that,” he says. 

One last Sangai: “I’ve always been involved in theater and production, so it’s just very natural for me to act,” says Shoukat.

“I’m using heritage to inform the people who come out to watch tonight’s performance about where I’m coming from.”

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