Jackie Chan took advantage of a hiatus from the shooting of Rush Hour II to emcee Harvard's 16th annual Cultural Rhythms show Saturday, where he was named the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations Artist of the Year.
The martial arts star refused to show off his world-famous kicks, saying, "I'm tired of being a martial artist. Right now, I'd rather be a singer!"
The sold-out performance in Sanders theatre showcased performances by 34 student cultural groups.
The Foundation also took the opportunity to repeat their request that Harvard create an ethnic studies department.
Awarding Chan his plaque, Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth '71 commended Chan for his work with the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation, which provides scholarships for impoverished students, and aids orphans and senior citizens.
"Please work hard," Chan urged students in his acceptance speech, "You are so lucky, you don't know what Harvard, means to us, who come from a poor country."
Chan stressed the importance of education, and said he is always conscious of the lessons he teaches as a role model. He said the trademark outtakes at the end of his movies--which show bloopers during the production of the film--are meant to show children that his violence is not real.
Chan ended on a humorous note, saying he was able to pick up English on his own, through music.
"At first, I listened to Rock and Roll, but I couldn't understand it, so I switched to Country," he said, bursting into song with, 'You are always on my mind.' "This way, when I see a pretty girl, I know what to say: 'You are always on my mind...'"
At the start of the event, however, Chan seemed nervous about his English. He said he didn't want to make "too many speeches----I'm just smiling for the whole day." Chan did much more than sit and smile, however, and joined in several of the student performances.
After a Fuerza Latina salsa, one dancer grabbed Chan and tried to show him some moves. He proved more dexterous than she thought: he took her by surprise when he ended the impromtu dance by dipping her, to shrieks of audience members.
"What I most liked about the show was its range, which highlighted the diversity of the student body," said audience member Firas H. Alkhatib '04. "The performances were very interesting."
Most of the performers said they had started practicing sometime around intersession, with varying levels of proficiency within each group.
"I've known the dance for a long time, because it's very traditional in the Philippines, but there were all levels," said Mindy M. Chan '02, of an intricate Philippine Forum dance. It had people holding two long poles near the ground, clapping them together in rhythm, as dancers jump inside and outside the closing space.
"The new people were scared of getting struck, but it looks harder than it is," Chan added.
Throughout the afternoon, the audience did little to hide its enthusiasm for Chan, and the cries of "We love you Jackie," and the low, quick chant of "Jackie Chan" never died out.
In a later interview, Chan said, with a trace of weariness, that he has become as famous in America as in Hong Kong.
"I'm recognized always, walking down the street, even when its dark, even when I'm in front of someone. They'll say, 'Hey, that's Jackie Chan in front of me!' How can they know?'"