The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Yo-yos, lightsabers abound at CLAID’s Lunar New Year celebration

Yichen Liu
TASC Spec Ops Yoyo Team performs at Claid Lunar New Year celebration event on Feb. 20.

Student performers for the Chinese Language and International Development Society gathered Saturday at Lincoln Hall Theater in a showcase of culture and talent for the Year of the Dragon. The event exhibited traditional Chinese dance numbers alongside lightsaber battles in an era-transcending show.

“It was a lot of coordination … (to create) a balance between traditional versus modern,” said Amy Chen, lead director for the event and senior in Business and LAS. “We can see how much our dancers have grown.”

Emcees Jerry Shi and Caroline Huang welcomed the audience in both English and Chinese to the night’s opening act — a traditional Chinese long-sleeve dance — co-led by Meg Li, junior in Business, and Chen. A showcase of martial arts and weapon mastery from Illini Wushu — the first of several non-CLAID-affiliated groups — followed afterward. 

The night featured five other guest performances, including an original live song performance from the student band Plan P and a demonstration from TASC Special Ops with their gravity-defying, glow-in-the-dark yo-yo tricks. 

A total of 14 distinct performances, which included Chinese pop-inspired choreographies, flag dances and a short film grappling with themes of grief and the immigrant experience, were featured. 

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According to Jiayan Wu, freshman in LAS and lead choreographer for the night’s Chinese fan performance, it was a summer of preparation, followed by a semester and a half of consistent rehearsals, that accomplished the show’s concise runtime.

“Before the school year even started for me, I had picked the song, I had a vision in my head,” Wu said. “I’ve known (Amy) for a while … She decided to reach out to a bunch of people who had a lot of experience. I’m really glad that Amy invited me to be one of the leaders.”

Wu was far from the only choreographer who knew Chen outside of CLAID. Many of the event’s leads graduated from the same high school district in Chicago.

“A lot of the people who are performing now were from the Asian American clubs in Chicago public high schools,” said Cindy Chen, freshman in the Division of General Studies and intern for CLAID’s performance chair. “We all know the performing culture and the different types of dances … the respect in the culture as well.”

As this was only the second performance of its kind since its debut in 2023’s Year of the Rabbit, Chen calls CLAID one of the “fastest-growing” groups on campus, with its performer numbers alone nearly doubling from last year.

“Last year we had around 30, 40 members,” Chen said. “This year we have 60. That’s just the performance branch.”

After a luminous concluding act of gyrating glow sticks and lightsaber duels, CLAID closed its Lunar New Year show with a medley of short videos and TikToks collected from various rehearsals throughout the year.

As performers huddled together on the stage for a final bow, the lead director surprised choreographers and crew members with gifts and a final farewell to the club before encouraging the audience to return next February to celebrate Lunar New Year with CLAID once again.

“Our mission is to bridge the gap between international and American-born Chinese students … (CLAID) is a place of community,” Chen said.


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