Dance groups are often formed to showcase a certain style of dance, but at the University of Richmond, a dance group was created to showcase a certain type of music.
Asian Beat, a dance group on campus, was started by senior Jackie Lee and three of her friends in the spring of 2007.
"The purpose of the group is to promote Asian hip-hop and pop artists," Lee said, "as well as Asian artists here in the states."
Lee, who is of Korean descent, was born in the United States but attended elementary school in Korea. She said while she lived in Korea, hip-hop and dance became wildly popular. She has been listening to Asian pop and hip-hop music ever since and was able to turn her interest into an organization that promotes Asian culture on campus.
The group started when she and three of her friends decided to enter a dance contest at the International Club Culture Fest in the spring of 2007. Lee does all the choreography for the group, and said that while all the music the group danced to was by Asian artists, she took inspiration for choreography from many sources. Lee said she watched a lot of dancing on YouTube, and took dance classes in New York City when she was home in New Jersey.
The group's style of dancing is what Lee calls "intricate."
Intricate, a fairly new style, is a mixture of hip-hop dancing and pop and lock, Lee said. The style involves isolating parts of the body and moving them one at a time to the beat, which keeps the movements separate. This style of dancing tends to read the beat or the lyrics, Lee said.
In addition to the dancing, there is the music, which Lee chooses from current hits in different Asian countries. Because Lee is more in touch with popular Korean music, she said she asked other members of the group to keep her in touch with the music of countries such as Japan and China.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
"I'm always bugging my members to send me their music," Lee said.
According to senior Mariya Sota, listening to music while practicing and performing for Asian Beat is a great way to remind some members of the group about their heritage. Sota, who is Japanese, has been a part of the group since it began, and said she had enjoyed hearing music from the different Asian countries.
"It makes you learn about your own culture too," Sota said.
Junior Claire Ligon, who joined the group last year, said that the music is sometimes in English, sometimes in other languages and sometimes a mix of both.
The group is open to any students who want to join. Ligon joined the group after seeing a flyer and an Asian Beat video on YouTube.
"I thought the style of dancing was really cool," she said.
Ligon said she liked being a part of Asian Beat because she got to learn moves inspired by a different type of hip-hop. The relationships she formed with the other members have been valuable to her as well, Ligon said.
"I love it because it's a designated time I can hang out with fun people," she said.
Asian Beat is also a way for Asian exchange students to get involved on campus, Lee said. At any given time, up to half the group has been made up of international students from Asian countries, and Lee said she was proud that those students could make friends through Asian Beat. The dance group was not the only Asian student organization Lee was a part of creating. During 2007 she was also one of the founders of the Asian Student Union. After seeing several Asian students transfer during her freshman year because they felt as if they didn't belong, Lee said she saw a need for Asian student organizations.
"I felt the need to make something here for Asian students," Lee said.
Lee is now the president of the ASU and said that she hoped that the union would continue for many years after she graduates. Sota is the vice president of ASU and said that she was glad Asian Beat was created because it got Asian students like her involved in a campus organization.
"If it wasn't for Asian Beat," Sota said, "I'm not sure I would be involved in any other group on campus."
Contact Collegian reporter Kate Foss at email@example.com
Support independent student media
You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.Donate Now