The Chinese American Student Association’s yearly formal has been on my RPI bucket list for quite some time now. Celebrating the Chinese New Year (or the lunar new year, depending on who you ask), it is one of the larger CASA events. Often viewed from the upper balcony of the third floor of the Rensselaer Union, CASA formal, to me at least, has included only a brief glance at the festivities below. This year is my last year here at RPI and is the year of crossing items off of this bucket list; after five years at this Institute, I finally attended this year’s formal. I was finally included in all of the action and excitement I had missed years prior.
Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed in the event overall. The food was heavily guarded, the student performances were minimal, and overall there was not much to occupy my time. I entered the Union at 7 pm, nearly an hour late, starving and ready to chow down on an assortment of Chinese food. You can imagine my immense disappointment when I was restricted to only one dumpling for an appetizer. Food would not be served till later, and without any distractions other than submitting into a raffle, I sat patiently, eating my one dumpling, and trying really hard not to run downstairs to buy a sub.
I was distracted for a while from my hunger when two students, Brian Yu ’14 and Georges Jaar ’14, gave a lion dance. Their acrobatics and detailed dragon garb made the performance exciting and cool. I really enjoyed the effort the students put into the dance as they made their movements look natural and fluid. They appeared to be well versed in the dragon performance and really entertained the crowd.
The lion dance was followed by a performance by the hip-hop dance group Eighth Wonder. Like the lion dance, I thoroughly enjoyed the show they put on, and applaud their hard work on the dance routines. Eighth Wonder has consistently put on an entertaining show each time I have seen them. Mixing various dance styles with popular music, they provide a good performance no matter the setting.
Overall, I would have enjoyed more performances throughout the night. Not only would I have been more entertained by events, but it would have offered a welcome distraction from my hunger.
When dinner was finally available for general use, I, through an unfortunate section placement, was stuck at the end of the buffet line. Food was catered by Red and Blue, so the food was much different than what is typically served on campus. Unfortunately, food was limited; individual servers were in place to make sure attendees received only one portion of each food item. Whilst the meal choices were diverse and unique—items ranged from tofu to fish, from green bean salad to General Tso’s bean curd—I felt limited in my choices, due to the portion restrictions. I left feeling hungry, wishing I had bought that sub from the Rathskeller.
I feel bad saying negative things about a program that a lot of people put a lot of hard work and effort into. It was evident that the majority of students there were CASA members enjoying their favorite event; however, to an outsider, the event was boring and lackluster.
I believe most of the problems were due to the heavy snowstorm that hit the area the past weekend. CASA had to move to a different time and location at the last minute. Refunds were handed out and a great attempt was made to create a fun and exciting event in the new location, but honestly, it fell flat.
I would encourage anyone considering going to the formal next year to definitely try it out. It should be on your bucket list, if it isn’t already. Not only is it a great way to experience a new culture and new foods but you will be able to immerse yourself in a side of RPI that you may not have seen before. I think the dullness of the event was simply due to poor circumstances—I assume that without a terrible snowstorm, the night would have been very enjoyable. I would just recommend eating a sandwich before heading out.