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‘Eastbound’ Is a Celebration of Identity Through Dance

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Student performers and excited audience members gathered in the Lowell Lecture Hall on Saturday, April 16 for the first in-person Asian American Dance Troupe (AADT) performance in three years — “Eastbound.” The group’s highly anticipated return to in-person performances sold out within hours of ticket release and prompted AADT to perform a third show, for the first time in the group’s history. The theater buzzed with energy from both audience members and the dancers as they stretched and finished preparing their dances — or what their captains referred to as “labors of love” in their moving letter in this year’s program.

For Michelle Sun ’25, dancing in this spring’s performance was all about building community. “I think even before coming to Harvard, hearing about AADT and their community made me really want to be a part of it, especially coming in as a really scared Freshman, I was immediately drawn into the community,” she said. “The community is the biggest part of AADT. The people here are really sweet, really amazing and really supportive, like even if you don’t particularly know them, they’re always going to be there to like, you know, help out or give a lending hand. It’s just really fun, a really bubbly, supportive community.”

Sun anticipates participating in AADT for many years to come. “I was welcomed with open arms, and that’s the start of my AADT journey and I know it’s going to be really far out into the future up until my last semester in Senior year,” she said.

Many audience members took time out of their Saturdays to support friends performing in the show. “Our friend Stephanie is performing and I am here to support her. Just to check it out. I have never been to anything like this, so I am curious to see what it is like,” said Anuraag V. V. Gopaluni, a third-year graduate student in the department of Biostatistics.

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“I’m here because one of my friends is participating and performing. We are both from the school of public health, which is a little bit far from where we are at the moment. And, I really respect the way he has tried to incorporate creativity into his day to day life,” said Krithi Ravi, a first-year School of Public Health student who was waiting for a last-minute ticket for the sold-out 2 p.m. show.

Others attended AADT’s “Horizons” show in fall 2021 and were so impressed with the performance that they became hooked on AADT. “We went to the one in the fall and it was just really fun to watch and we had a great time. You could tell the performers were having a great time too, and we wanted to support our friends as well. It was really hype,” Joyce Wu ’24 said.

Claire Huang ’24 agreed. “We came in the fall, and it was honestly a really inspiring performance and you can really see all the hard work they put in and we’re excited just to watch it. I expect to have a lot of fun again,” she said.

For Wu, AADT’s reach goes beyond just one performance. “Harvard is really special that they have AADT and a group like this just because I feel like a lot of other schools don’t. It’s such a specialized group. There’s such a passion that they put forward, and they really do make a big impact on this campus,” she said.

By intermission, the crowd was electric with excitement, cheering for each dance and shouting out the talented performers. “I thought the show was great, a lot of fun,” said Jessica H. Sun, a third-year graduate student at SEAS in the department of Physics. “I’ve been to a couple of these and I was part of MIT’s AADT which is similar to this, so it’s very nostalgic for me. It’s very energetic. I was really impressed by ‘Rule Breakers.’ It was so clean,” she said.

As the cast danced exuberantly for the curtain call, the crowd cheered wildly. The shared, sustained energy of dancers and the audience came to a head with the sexy and colorful “Aphrodisia” dance routine. A fitting conclusion to a joyous celebration of tradition, creativity, exploration, and freedom that seemed just as fun to perform as it was to watch.

“We’ve been lucky to witness our dancers' many multitudes: kind, hot, brilliant, sensual, zany, diligent, fun,” choreographers Sho Sho Leigha Ho ’24 and Si Chiang Wu ’24 wrote in the program. “Our performance today is the product of a community that has cheered each other along as each individual solidified their confidence in themselves.”

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