On the fourth of April, University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Cambodian American Student Association, CASA, set up a celebration for Khmer New Year at Lowell. This celebration consisted of many different performances from many local sources, ranging from the Angkor dance group to Lowell High School’s step team. The MCs for the event were two members of CASA’s eboard:
Sokreth and Lucky. The duo
guided a packed audience of many local Cambodians and people of other cultures
through a night of cultural celebration. In addition to the Cambodian
community, students from UNH, UMass, UMB, and UConn also arrived for the fun.
Furthermore, State Representative Rady Mom and Mayor Rodney Elliot also showed
their faces to bring on the fun. Throughout the night, many traditional and
modern performances linked together the older and younger generations of
Cambodian Americans. Meanwhile, the event also immersed the non-Cambodian
portion of the audience into Cambodian culture. Overall, the celebration of
Khmer New Year successfully integrated an eager audience into the diverse
Cambodian culture through various traditional and modern performances.
One of the
strangest occurrences during the celebration was the fact that the least
culturally-oriented performance was cheered on the most by the audience. Lowell
High School’s step team seized the crowd’s attention by performing their
routine dance that involves clapping, stomping, tapping, and snapping. Although
the night was technically dedicated to celebrate Cambodian culture, this group which
had nothing to do with Cambodian culture managed to successfully outperform
every other performer on stage. However, that is not to say that the other
traditional performances, such as the Angkor dance, coconut dance, or the
playing of the khhim, a traditional instrument, were not good. Because this step
team was allowed to perform at the Khmer New Year celebration, the goal of the
event was probably not just to celebrate Cambodian traditions. Rather, the
overarching goal was probably to integrate not only Cambodian culture into an
American society, but also to integrate more modern American culture into
Cambodian society. Thus, CASA’s event combines the different cultures of a
single community into one melting pot that brings everyone closer.
|Random Angkor Dance group found on Google|
|Random Coconut Dance group found on Google|
|Khhim - a traditional instrument|
introduced culture brought from the motherland to America, demonstrating a different dance style and an interesting instrument. The modern performers such as the Lowell High School step team and the UML Urban Choreography Club showed the older, more traditional audience new forms of dance which Cambodian Americans and the rest of the community have picked up from their years in America. Both sides were largely successful in capturing the audience’s attention as cheers exploded in the hall after every performance. One of the problems with the event, however, was that the food was free for all, but the entrance fee was $3. Three dollars is very cheap, especially since food always costs more than that. For that reason, a portion of the audience was probably there just to steal a great dinner deal and not to watch the actual show. In addition, there was not enough food for everyone, so some volunteers and performers didn’t get to eat. Nevertheless, the Khmer New Year celebration was very successful in integrating cultures and teaching its audience of many Cambodian traditions. I would definitely recommend everyone who has time to attend the event next year.