On the eve of Lunar New Year 2024, the Year of the Wood Dragon, New York’s AAPI community and allies converged on Red Pavilion for a night of celebration across generations. Joining forces with the neo-noir nightlife venue for their second annual collaboration, Ayi Ayi; a Brooklyn-based AAPI DJ collective founded in 2021, kicked off the Spring Festival with a bang. 

The event was brought together by Ayi Ayi resident DJs, Vyper, Angzz, Jialing, Mui Mui; guest DJs, Soo Intoit and Phantazn; with performers, Pllsxy and YY. The event was thrown in partnership with NYC based non-profits Blasian March and Caribbean Equality Project, in joint celebration of Black History Month. Between the hosts, performers, partners, and vendors, over ten parties contributed to the organization of the event, and the community pride was palpable. YY, one of the performers of the night, articulated to GEN V, “I feel really grateful to be a part of this spirit of fierce celebration and resistance; I love how much Ayi Ayi cares and gives back whenever they can to this community and beyond.”

Guests of the event were greeted with a sprawling bar, and two stages; one for the DJ booth, raised about six feet above the crowd, and the other for the performers, yet to appear later in the night. The venue’s regular restaurant furnishings were cleared away to expose a dance floor, which filled up within half an hour of the event start. Red and gold banners, hand painted by Crystal Monkey Calligraphy, hung from floor to ceiling; they read “Dragon Year turns the Universe in your Favor” in bold Chinese text. The green room buzzed with energy as organizers piled in to touch base. Phone chargers and excited well-wishes were exchanged amidst the stretching performers, before each person returned to the main room’s festivities.

Ayi Ayi and Red Pavillion first connected in 2023, drawn in by their shared ethos. Founded in 2021 and 2023 respectively, both hubs felt the urgent need to fortify spaces for the AAPI community amidst a precarious social climate. “I started Ayi Ayi with Angzz out of a need for togetherness and solidarity after the string of AAPI hate crimes that happened in 2021,” Vyper tells GEN V, “‘Ayi’ translates to ‘Auntie’, we’re trying to bring together our chosen family, as dysfunctional as we are.” For Shien Lee, the founder of Red Pavilion, her decision was another response rooted in the growing violence against the community; “Our goal has been to create a space for healing, connection, and empowerment; we harness art, hospitality, and cultural exchange to break down stereotypes and inequalities. So this isn’t just another NYC nightlife venue; it’s a celebration of AAPI resilience.”

 The night marked a momentous union for AAPI organizations centered in New York nightlife, exposing an emerging solidarity between older and younger community members within a larger picture. They’ve come a long way, Vyper recounts, “Our first few parties were fundraisers live streamed from home on Twitch. We set up my partner’s CDJs, camera and lights on my kitchen counter and would DJ while making spring rolls and noodles to raise money for local mutual aid organizations.” Three years later, the mission remains the same but the outreach continues to grow far greater. The event had successfully brought together over 200 people from racially and generationally diverse backgrounds to welcome another year of solidarity through hard work and celebration. 

As the night progressed, the entertainment grew more interactive, the crowd gathered around the lower stage as performances began. The first dancer, Pllsxy, performed a dark and sensual pole dance, while wearing handcrafted latex dragon wings. Themes of birth, rebirth, and transformation rang through, with the dragon breaking free from its chains to embody an intensely powerful energy, symbolized as she agilely flipped off the pole and suspended herself in the air numerous times. 

After a year of being off-stage, Pllsxy tells GEN V that it was a journey of reconnecting with her culture as an adult that inspired the performance. Her work is naturally subversive, she notes as an Asian femme, one of the most fetishized groups, “pole dance and exploring sensual movement has allowed me to reclaim power and express a sexuality that felt repressed growing up.” The second performer, YY, adds, “It feels very much like a reclamation to me. I’ve been feeling very powerful lately, so any potential fetishizers don’t bother me one bit.” 

The second performance contrasted the first with its playful kinky elements; YY played the part of a mustached dom, who tormented his pole-tethered slave, J, with the help of an assistant, Ang. To center the New Year theme, YY scrawled over J’s body in thick calligraphy, before flogging it into black smears. On the front he wrote ‘新年快乐 (Happy New Year),’ and on the back; ‘笑口常开 (always smiling).’ YY explains coyly, “the direct translation of the second phrase is ‘laugh hole always open.’ I thought the ambiguity went well with our kink theme.” 

In between performances, Phantazn energized the crowd with self-produced Jersey Club renditions of traditional and modern Asian melodies, like Tong Li’s song Actor, popularly sampled in Gunna’s song Who You Foolin’; and Tokyo Drift by the Teriyaki Boyz. Phantazn’s mother was in the audience, filming with an iPhone; “she said my friends are kinky,” Phantazn laughs, “I have honestly never even seen her dance before; it was a first for many.” Vyper agrees, “Ayi Ayi really is for the ‘cunty azns’ who respect their elders but will slut themselves out. We walk a fine line between keeping traditions and breaking them.”

Producers Alyson Cox, VYPER

Video Contributors Hop Nguyen, Ojulowo Mei, Sasha Klu, Meili Wang

Video Editor Xiao Han

Music JIALING – 自我 (ego) / JIALING – 外婆 (grandma)

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