Asian Festival brings a taste of the Far East to San Antonio

Asian Dance

The Asian Festival, held at the Institute for Texan Cultures this past Saturday, February 5, marked the “Year of the Rabbit;” or the Chinese New Year. The festival was celebrated with a mix of Asian communities through live music, cultural performances, food, crafts, and other products.

The festival brought a variety of vendors to sample their cultural foods ranging from Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Philippine, Pakistan, and Laotian. Top selling foods were various takes of Asian noodles, chicken kabobs and samosas, a potato stuffed pastry popular in south and central Asia. A traditional beverage that seemed to satisfy the masses was a Taiwanese Bubble Tea. It is a tea based mix of fruit and milk. Upon request, tapioca balls called “boba,” could be added to enhance the flavor. The name comes from the bubbles or foam that is left on top from being shaken. Food stands lined the perimeter of the festival while crafts and product vendors filled the empty spaces selling everything from Asian antiques, traditional clothing, and kitchen pottery to small knick-knacks. The lines were long and the crowds were dense, which only added to the experience. The traffic of people could have been compared to the same hustle and bustle that is present in many popular Asian cities.

What’s a festival without entertainment? Four stages were placed around the festival grounds showcasing a variety of dance, music and other performances. On the Wells Fargo stage was a solo rendition of Japanese, Okinawan dance, a beautifully choreographed tale depicting the pursuit of inner beauty to match one’s outer beauty. The classical Ryukyuan piece featured a girl carrying two cherry blossom branches and was very calming and graceful.

A more lively performance was given by a group of young girls from the Arathi School of Indian Dance. Their clothing depicted that of traditional Indian attire consisting of bright colors, gold head pieces, jewelry, and anklet beads to add to the sounds of the music. Their style of dance was more about precision and delivered a uniquely energetic feel to the piece. After this traditional folk dance, a solo performance transitioned into a Bollywood style that infused formal and folk Indian music. The music was upbeat, fast-paced and excited the crowd as cheers and claps overpowered the music.

Women of all ages flocked to the Time Warner Lotus Blossom stage as a group of culturally dressed men dashed through the stage in attire that left all but the most intimate portions of their body exposed. The Karilagán Philippine Cultural Group was a high energy performance as they stomped across stage in headpieces while using gongs to intensify the sounds of the music playing. Following the men, was a group of women who wore similar clothing and used baskets as head pieces. The tone of their performance was lowered by their slow and elegant movements and brought a more calming atmosphere that left its audience with a sense of serenity.

Overall, the festival was a success that brought thousands of San Antonio residents to enjoy the variety of Asian culture. According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2011 is the year of the Rabbit, a celebration of people who are articulate and talented. This festival sure delivered as the crowd was pleased and their appetites fulfilled.