As the light dimmed, a loud chant echoed thunderously throughout Frist Theatre: “Triple what? Triple eight! Triple what? Triple eight! Triple what? Triple sexy!”
This is Triple 8’s company chant. Members shout it before each of their shows to elevate the energy in the room. This excitement was a perfect lead-in to their 20th anniversary show, “UPRISING.” Triple 8 is a primarily East Asian dance group — the number eight is considered lucky in China, their namesake “888” symbolizes a triple promise of prosperity.
The whole theater glowed with red — Triple 8’s signature color — as the dancers took their places on stage for the show's first piece: “Enter the Dragon.” The piece was centered around East Asian martial arts, incorporating kicks and turns to showcase the essence of the group’s identity. Under the ominous lighting, dancers ran around in circles with their arms spread out, creating an image of a dragon.
As the University’s premier East Asian company, the program highlighted various aspects of East Asian culture. Pieces included traditional music, dresses, and props like fans and swords. In one piece, the dancers created imagery of a lotus, once again giving a nod to Chinese culture.
Although the show was filled with many great moments, personally, my favorite piece was “Life’s a Gamble,” an all-female number. Signaling a message of female empowerment, all the girls came out dressed in suits, and I let out an audible gasp when they all stood in a diagonal line under the mystical purple lighting and leaned over one another like a row of cascading dominoes.
One of the choreographers, Diana Kim ’26, shared the story behind how this piece came together. “We are part of two minority groups — being Asian and women — and since Triple 8 is an East Asian dance company with the theme being uprising and rebellion, we wanted to break through the Asian stereotypes of being considered weak and inferior in society,” she said.
The choreography was strong yet undeniably feminine. “[We] wanted it to be groovy and sexy, like girls’ hip hop because we thought that was what we were best at,” said Kim. “We also tried to match the show’s theme of ‘UPRISING’ and portray a story of girls who got betrayed by a guy that they loved but took vengeance and power back by having the attitude of ‘We rule, we don’t need you in my life.’”
For Triple 8, every component of the performance, not just the dance itself, is important. The power suits added to the fierce attitude of the piece, and Kim emphasized that the costuming was a well-considered choice. “We decided to go with the suit theme but also include a lot of feminine elements. We didn’t want to cover up and act like men but just showcase who we are and emphasize that through this piece,” she explained.
The dancers’ chemistry was palpable on stage throughout the show, but it particularly stood out in a hip-hop piece called “Slap My Ass.” In this piece, dancers added their own flair to the hip-hop moves. “Every dancer has a different style and they could showcase their own color while still looking cool,” said Kim. This piece also had the most interaction with the audience, and as the audience shouted along to the lyrics and dancers high-fived each other, it was evident that everyone was enjoying themselves.
Last but not least, the show’s closer was a mashup called “The 20th,” which paid homage to all the dances from the last 20 years at Triple 8. “It was a really cool way to celebrate the 20th anniversary and please the alums, and it felt like I was getting integrated into the group,” said Elvis Le ’25. Le joined the company last fall with a background in Taekwondo. He created the exhilarating martial arts sequence in the piece, which was his first attempt at choreography.
Beyond their exciting performances, beyond their empowering costumes, Triple 8 is one big family — and this energy certainly shone through on stage. “One thing that’s really special about Triple 8 is how close the community is, not only relating to dance but also to culture,” said Kim. “Dance can really bring people together, and I feel like we really connected on a spiritual level.”
Most of all, for Triple 8 dancers, the group is their home. They represent the rich and diverse culture of East Asia, and they do it with pride. Even after witnessing their performance for a mere two hours, I could definitely feel the fiery red passion in their art, camaraderie, and culture.
“As [an] East Asian group, we are a minority group in the US, and at Princeton. And no matter what the theme is each year, we carry the fundamental concept of showcasing our culture, and there’s power within that,” said Kim. And Kim’s words certainly ring true. Triple 8 has been a leading voice for East Asian culture for the past 20 years at Princeton, and it seems like they won’t be going away anytime soon.
Jenna Park is a contributing writer for The Prospect at the 'Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Instagram at @jenparkie.