The D-VINE Way to Celebrate Asian Music and Culture – St. Olaf College

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

BY CHRISTINA ZHEN ’22 AND ANNA BROWN ’23
Click to view D-VINE videos on YouTube.

My name is Christina Zhen, 22 years old, a biology student with a concentration in management studies, and I have been learning to dance since I was five years old.

At first, my mother forced me to learn it. I studied traditional Chinese dance and folk dance from age 5 to 14. At that time, I thought dancing was just an extracurricular activity, and I spent every day in class in tears because training basic skills is always boring and painful (like splits and bending back) but these are actually very important bases.

I don’t know when dancing became my favorite hobby and even a big part of my life. After arriving in the United States in 2014, I attended an International Baccalaureate school and took dance as an elective. It was then that I began to study dance in several aspects.

D-VINE live at the Pause.

When I first came to St. Olaf, I thought that — like most other schools — our school would have a K-pop dance-focused club. But no, even then 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 the Lunar New Year at the end of the fall semester. It was my first time rehearsing with people from this school and I met several like-minded friends.

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

After the Lunar New Year, three new friends and I launched D-VINE. The 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 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 the time, so they already knew about the college student organization system. The four of us hit it off and created D-VINE. I still remember the day we passed the Student Government Association (SGA) audit. It was February 27, 2019, so all of our bespoke merchandise included that date.

In fact, starting a student organization is not particularly difficult, as the school encourages us to create new organizations.

D-VINE members wearing custom sweatshirts.

In fact, starting a student organization is not particularly difficult, because the school encourages us to create new organizations, so the threshold is not very high. As long as you have a few friends who have the same goal as you and everyone is willing to work together, then apply to SGA. After their approval, your organization is officially founded.

The hardest thing after establishment is how to make it known to the student body. As a performance driven group, we have 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 the Asian studies department. We also do our best to participate in school activities so that more people can learn more about us.

The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion is our most important resource. We joined the Taylor Center early in 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, was very helpful to us. Each 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 run into difficulties. SGA is also a supportive resource as each member of the student staff is very responsible and professional. It is very pleasant to work with them.

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

Over the past three years, we have participated in many school activities and created many music videos posted on our YouTube account. But the most difficult were the two years when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Because the school has many restrictions on in-person activities, almost a semester was totally empty. Under such circumstances, we feel like we are starting all over again in the fall 2021 semester. Luckily, every member of our leadership team is super responsible. All five of us are 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 of which we are proud.

My favorite D-VINE memory so far is the showcase we held at the end of last year. It was the first large-scale event after two years, and everyone on our team gave 100% effort. We never see it as a job or a task. We want to make it perfect. When I watched my members on stage at the end of the show, I was deeply moved. We speak different languages, have different skin colors and come from different backgrounds, but through dancing 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 stand 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 stage. Of course, some of our members don’t perform on stage. They prefer that we do activities together during our weekly meetings. Our management team carefully prepares games and activities every two weeks so that members can have a place to relax and have fun after school work.

I will be graduating with most of the management team this year, so we are currently planning to pass D-VINE on to the next generation. Right now we are already holding elections. I hope the next leaders of D-VINE can lead D-VINE further and better. I hope we can attract more students to our school to get interested in us to dance and spread Asian culture. Working hard for a group goal is the luckiest and happiest thing.

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

If you want to join us after reading this article, please send an email to D-VINE Officers. We don’t have interviews or auditions – we just need you to have a passionate heart.

Mission D-VINE

D-VINE is a K-pop and Asian-inspired dance/vocal group that promotes Asian music and culture. Our goal is to provide a space where members can gather and participate in collaborative, multicultural performances together. We offer the opportunity to showcase the talents of members during individual performances or as part of a larger production. Our goal is to foster a supportive community of peers who share a passion for performance, regardless of individual dance or vocal ability.

Lyle L. Maltby