Atlantic Zenami creates waves for FAU’s Asian community

AZN is an Asian dance group that showcases different aspects of Asian culture through dance.


Courtesy of AZN.

Giovanna Brigo Cardoso, Contributing Writer

Atlantic ZeNami (AZN) is a dance team under the Asian Student Union (ASU) that introduces Asian culture through dance, from traditional dances to pop, K-Pop, and Bollywood. Every culture is welcomed and students in any skill level can join with no audition or screening needed. They will be hosting their end-of-semester showcase on April 11th from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Grand Palm in the Student Union for students to attend.

The Asian community is one of many at FAU, so the dance group is a way to help others know more about Asian culture with performances or events by ASU, such as the Lunar Year and the Maid Cafe.

AZN was created in 2015, and the name meaning is taken from two words: “Ze” is balance and calm, and “Nami” is from tsunami. 

“How I interpreted it is that we bring our culture and express it through performance art, and bring balance between other cultures,” said Justine To, the dance captain of the team.

To is the captain of AZN and has been since the end of spring of 2021. She joined the team in 2020, but because of COVID-19 she started dancing in Fall of 2021.  Her main inspiration to join the team is that she always wanted to be in an Asian dance group.

“I just liked expressing Asian culture through performance art, and being a dance captain gave me creative freedom to express myself and help others express themselves through dancing,” said To.

Courtesy of AZN.

Twin sisters, Deona and Dona George, the secretary and social media coordinator for AZN respectively, have been dancing since they were kids and when they arrived at FAU they wanted to be part of a team. They joined after watching a performance of AZN because it was a way to dance and make friends sharing the same interests. 

Chong Juergenson was inspired to be a dance member for the opportunity to meet new people in a less overwhelming environment, how it is very inclusive, and how it explores different cultures through dance. 

“Where I grew up, I primarily come from a white family, and I had a very small group of friends, so it is nice being at FAU which it has a bigger Asian community and everyone shares the same interests, but also, everyone has their own personality. Everyone gets to gain knowledge about new things that they haven’t heard before,” she said. 

Juergenson was adopted as a child and her parents kept her connected with Asian culture, so she has constantly been going to different events to learn more about it. In elementary school, she attended an international school where she could learn Chinese. 

“I wasn’t completely cut off from my culture, which I’m really happy about,” said Juergenson. 

For the George sisters, the most interesting thing about being a part of AZN is that they do a variety of Asian dances instead of a specific genre, which is not common in dance teams that tend to focus on one genre.  Since AZN does a variety of styles, it is an opportunity to learn other Asian dance styles. 

“I’m Indian, so I know Bollywood dances, but I don’t know Vietnamese or Chinese dances, so, sometimes, we do them as well,” said Deonna. 

The process of choosing the dances and music is very democratic. First, To has a meeting every week with Deonna and Donna, and they talk about what choices and what songs would fit into the theme that they are planning to learn. Then, they bring it up to the team to ask their opinions on the choreography and the song is chosen. 

The majority of the events that the team performs are under the ASU, but last semester it was the first time they were invited to perform outside ASU for FAU’s K-pop dance team, Next In Action’s showcase. AZN members have the option to still learn the dances while not participating in the shows.

A few years ago, a wave of hate towards the Asian community started to rise, but To pointed out that ASU is a safe space for everyone to join. All of the performer members are either East Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern, so it is an opportunity to be together and spread their word and Asian culture, and the team tries their best to prevent Asian hate by educating others. 

“By being at these events and attending these, more people will be educated on our culture, and it is a really good thing. Also, F

Courtesy of AZN.

AU is a predominantly white school, so it is a good opportunity to spread, so then everyone else can learn together,” Dona said. 

For the future of the group, AZN has big things planned with ASU for the end of the semester. While working towards that, they hope to get

their name out there for collaborations with other dance teams. Additionally, they want to plan more PR to promote the team.

Deona and Dona also shared they expect to increase and have more experience, as well as more diversity, in the group. 

Juergenson shares that AZN recently opened up a new volunteer position, which can be found on their Instagram and interested students must fill out a form. The position requires the volunteer to come to the events earlier to help set up and interact with members. This is a way to participate without worrying in the commitment of coming to the meetings.

All students are welcome to join. They don’t require students to be Asian or have a background in dancing.

The practices are every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the locations vary, but AZN posts updates on their Instagram. It is open for everyone and you can show up without prior notice. 

Giovanna Brigo Cardoso is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information on this story or others, contact her at [email protected].