St. Olaf College | News

Student View: The D-VINE way to celebrate Asian music and culture

In this Student View column, Christina Zhen ’22 shares her history with dance and what it was like to start a student organization on campus. Zhen and Anna Brown ’23 explain why D-VINE has been a source of fun and friendship for them on campus.

Click to view D-VINE videos on YouTube.

I’m Christina Zhen ’22, a senior majoring in biology with a management studies concentration, and I have been learning to dance since I was five years old.

At first, my mother forced me to learn it. I studied Chinese traditional dance and folk dance from ages 5–14. At that time, I thought that dancing was just an extracurricular activity, and I spent every day in class with tears because the basic skills training is always boring and painful (such as splits and bending backwards) but they are actually very important foundations.

I don’t know when dancing became my favorite hobby and even a big part of my life. After I came to the U.S. in 2014, I attended an International Baccalaureate School and took dance as an elective course. That’s when I began to study dancing from more aspects.

D-VINE performing live at the Pause.

When I first came to St.Olaf, I thought that — like most other schools — our school would have a club focused on K-pop dance. But no, even at that time, there was no club in the school that focused on Asian music and dance. I was rather disappointed at that time, but luckily, I joined the Korean Culture Association (KCA) and we started preparing programs for Lunar New Year at the end of the fall semester. It was the first time that I rehearsed with people in this school, and I met several like-minded friends.

D-VINE has been an incredible experience the past three years. I have met so many wonderful people who are as passionate about dancing as I am, and I am grateful that we have an organization focused on Asian performances and expanding the college’s knowledge of Asian culture. Through being a member of D-VINE, I have grown as both a dancer and a person, and I am looking forward to many more opportunities to be a part of D-VINE!Anna Brown ’23

After Lunar New Year, three new friends and I started D-VINE. All four of us come from different places and have very different backgrounds, but we all love to dance and celebrate Asian culture. We all hoped that there would be a community where we could meet more friends with the same interests. Except for me, all three of them were seniors at that time, so they were already familiar with the college student organization system. The four of us hit it off and established D-VINE. I still remember the day when we passed the Student Government Association (SGA) audit. It was February 27, 2019, so every custom-made merchandise of ours included this date.

Actually, starting a student organization is not particularly difficult, because the school encourages us to start new organizations.

Members of D-VINE wearing custom sweatshirts.

Actually, starting a student organization is not particularly difficult, because the school encourages us to start new organizations, so the threshold is not very high. As long as you have a few friends who have the same purpose as you and everyone is willing to work together, then apply to SGA. After they approve, your organization is officially founded.

The most difficult thing after the establishment is how to publicize it to the student body. As a group focused on performances, we opened Instagram and YouTube accounts. We contacted many other student organizations, for example, several multicultural clubs, as well as students from the Dance Department and Asian Studies Department. We also try our best to participate in school activities so that more people can learn about us.

The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion is our most important resource. We joined the Taylor Center at the beginning of our establishment because D-VINE represents a diverse student organization, so we are able to join the Taylor Center network. Norma Charlton, the assistant director of the Taylor Center, gave us a lot of help. Every year, we will receive their grants to help us carry out our activities. The Taylor Center is like home — a place where we can ask for help if we have any difficulties. SGA is also a supportive resource because every student staff member is very responsible and professional. It is very pleasant to cooperate with them.

I choose to dance, not because I’m good at it, but because life is too boring to just study. To me, D-VINE means freedom of expression. It is a cool place to explore your talents, challenge yourself, and find new friends. What makes me want to stay in this club is that we are not only dancing but we can learn about different cultures from different people, and the people in D-VINE are super nice. You do not have to be an expert in dance; we learn together and have fun🙂Jojo Martins Freitas ’24

In the past three years, we have participated in many school activities and created many music videos posted on our YouTube account. But the hardest part was the two years when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Because the school has many restrictions on in-person activities, almost one semester was totally blank. Under such circumstances, we have a feeling of starting all over again in the fall semester of 2021. Fortunately, every member of our executive team is super responsible. Each of the five of us is willing to spend a lot of time on D-VINE without asking for anything in return. In the eyes of each of us, D-VINE is a child we are proud of.

For now, my favorite memory from D-VINE is the showcase we held at the end of last year. This was the first large-scale event after two years, and everyone in our team gave 100 percent effort. We never regard it as a job or task. We want to make it perfect. When I looked at my members on the stage at the end of the performance, I was deeply moved. We speak different languages, have different skin colors, and come from different backgrounds, but through dance, we are a family because we are always proud of each other.

Members of D-VINE.

If you are a member of D-VINE, everyone in D-VINE will be behind you and support you. Many of our members are also very active in other activities, and we all support them and shout loudly for them. We love every way they shine on the stage. Of course, some of our members don’t perform on stage. They prefer that we do activities together at our weekly meetings. Our executive team carefully prepares games and activities bi-weekly so that members can have a place to relax and have fun after school work.

I will graduate with most of the executive team this year, so we are currently planning to hand over D-VINE to the next generation. At present, we are already holding elections. I hope the next executives of D-VINE can lead D-VINE further and better. I hope we can attract more students in our school to be interested in us to dance and spread Asian culture. Working hard for a goal as a group is the luckiest and happiest thing.

I joined D-VINE at the beginning of the year and have enjoyed dancing in many projects since. The group is so welcoming and I have improved in my technique and created strong bonds with everyone. I am excited about our upcoming performances at Lunar New Year!Andrea Hanson ’25

If you are interested in joining us after reading this article, please email the D-VINE officers. We have no interviews and no auditions — we just need you to have a passionate heart.

D-VINE Mission

D-VINE is a K-pop and Asian-inspired dance/vocal group promoting Asian music and culture. Our purpose is to provide a space in which members can congregate and engage in collaborative, multicultural performances together. We provide the opportunity to showcase members’ talents at individual performances or in a larger production. We aim to foster a supportive community of peers with a shared passion for performing, regardless of individual dancing or vocal ability.