Join the Beat to Celebrate East Asian

Traditional Performance Arts at MSU

illustration of three white silhouettes on yellow circles on red background

Join the Beat, the MSU Asian Studies Center’s most ambitious cultural program to date, will celebrate East Asian traditional performance arts in a synergistic way October 25-27.

Three groups of traditional performance artists – representing China, Japan and Korea – will each present a main stage performance at Snyder-Phillips Hall theatre over this three-day period, and four workshops will be conducted at various locations on MSU’s campus. The programming includes Rakugo, Nanguan and P’ansori traditional performance arts presentations.

  • Nanguan is a style of Chinese classical music originating in southern China that is also extremely popular in Taiwan. It features traditional southern Chinese music and Taiwanese theater performances.
  • Rakugo is a form of Japanese verbal entertainment featuring a lone storyteller who sits on a stage, with only a paper fan and a cloth as props. The stories have a comedic edge that keeps the audience laughing.
  • P’ansori is a solo-singer storytelling art designated as Korea’s intangible treasure and UNESCO world oral heritage. Its narrative structure alternates between spoken and sung passages.

All events are free and open to the public, and everyone is invited to join the celebration by attending the performances and the workshops (Rakugo Workshop II is open to the public as audience only).

“Storytelling is currently flourishing with the popularity of programs like TED talks, NPR’s The Moth on Stage, and such, and it plays a big role in all three of the East Asian traditional performance arts that Join the Beat features,” said Catherine Ryu, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture, MSU Department of Linguistics and Languages. “It’s timely for us to understand how the art of storytelling has developed in different parts of the world over different times and how it still speaks to us in compelling and powerful ways.”

What’s perfect for us is the ability to present traditional performance arts from a key region of Asia.


Organizers see the three days of programming as a combination of education, entertainment, outreach and engagement that enhances the visibility of MSU as a leading force in Asian studies in the United States and globally.

“MSU’s Asian Studies Center is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an All-Asia National Resource Center,” said Julie Hagstrom, Assistant Director, Asian Studies Center. “What’s perfect for us is the ability to present traditional performance arts from a key region of Asia. Our partnerships with faculty and students, student organizations, and the community all stand to benefit from this.”

Dr. Ryu adds, “The College of Arts & Letters is always looking for ways to collaborate with others, and Join the Beat is an excellent example of what we can accomplish through creative collaborative endeavors. We are sharing a large-scale cultural program supported by 15 MSU co-sponsors and an external co-sponsor with the general public and our students. The positive impact of Join the Beatis that it will bring together people of different backgrounds and interests to engage them with East Asian cultural legacies that will be highly informative and transformative.”

“We’ve asked the visiting artists to stay a bit longer so their performances overlap one another, and they can interact with the other traditional art performers, as well as our students, faculty and the community. As the audience gets drawn into the performers’ world, they, too, participate by bringing their energy and interest into the performance and imparting it to the performers.”

The 16 co-sponsors of “Join the Beat” include the MSU Asian Studies Center, Chinese Program, College of Arts & Letters, College of Music, Council on Korean Studies, Department of English, Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages, Department of Theatre, Global Studies in Arts and Humanities, International Studies and Programs, Japan Center for Michigan Universities, Japan Council, Japanese Program, Korean Program, Ministry of Education, Republic of China (Taiwan), and the MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.

For more information, visit the Join the Beat website.

Or contact:

Asian Studies Center