31st annual Culture Show highlights diversity of Hopkins students

By CHAEBIN JEON | November 15, 2018

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The Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted its 31st Annual Culture Show in the Rec Center on Saturday, Nov. 10. The event showcased many student cultural groups and included dance performances by Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe and Baila!, as well as a capella performances by Music Dynasty and Ketzev.

Sophomore Kristofer Madu kicked off the show, appearing on stage in a suit to MC and introduce the event. He described the show as an event that features the best student groups and seeks to showcase the diversity that exists at Hopkins.

“If you love your culture, raise some noise!” he shouted.

The crowd cheered and screamed.

The theme of this year’s show, he said, was Genesis. The focus would be on the roots of each student group and how each one had grown over the years.

“The student groups are the bedrock of a truly diverse student community,” Madu said, before asking people to share photos and videos of the event using the hashtag #heritage365.

After he hyped up the crowd a bit more, he introduced the first group of the night, the Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe.

Before the dance began, a member of the group explained that the traditional Chinese lion dance was originally a way for gangs to fight without being arrested, but eventually the dance became associated with good luck and fortune. The group’s performance took inspiration from the gang-fighting origins of the tradition.

Two lions, one red and one gold, ambled onto the stage, their yellow tassels shaking with each step. Drumming began and the lions walked around the stage, shaking and rolling their torsos. The crowd was somewhat hushed by the spectacle. The people working the lion costumes controlled them so that their heads would bob up and down and their eyes would blink. At times, the lions would stand on two feet so that they would tower over the audience, who subsequently broke out into applause.

The next group was Korean Pop Motion (KPM) — a dance group that began in 2015 and focuses on K-pop dance and music performances. K-pop covers a range of styles including dance-pop, pop ballad, R&B and hip-hop. Four girls dressed in black danced to a modern dance-pop song, and it was clear from the crowd’s cheering and clapping that K-Pop has truly gone international and become a Hopkins, if not worldwide, hit. During the second song, more members of the group joined in for a more upbeat, energetic song and danced in the style of popular K-pop groups such as BTS, EXO and 2AM. 

Music Dynasty, the only Chinese a capella group at Hopkins, performed next. Their first song was a Chinese pop song — the backing voices were strong and the soloist blended very well with the rest of the group. Their second song was a duet in English. 

After Music Dynasty, Kranti — the co-ed South Asian Fusion a capella group — stepped onto the stage. Their first song was an Indian pop song that contained both traditional and Western musical roots, and their second song, while in English and from the U.S., was remixed with Indian musical forms. The raga melodies throughout the pop songs were captivating. 

After Kranti, the Filipino Student Association (FSA) took to the stage. FSA originally started as a social club, but it grew to begin showcasing cultural dances from the ‘90s. They performed three dances based around pre-colonial myths. The women danced with sashes and waved golden half-circles that looked like fans. The men “drummed” alongside them by hitting wooden sticks on the ground. Eventually there was a scene were the men began fighting with sticks in a traditional style called escrima. By the end, the men and women were dancing around the dark stage with candles.

Next was Shakti, Hopkins’ competitive classical Indian dance team, which began in 2003. The men and women appeared in bright blue and yellow traditional dance outfits. They danced in unison, dramatizing traditional Indian stories with synchronized footwork, moving in shifting shapes around the stage. Their coordinated choreography changed quickly from flowing movements to faster, more angular movements, which stunned most of the audience, including myself, into captivated silence.

Lan Yun Blue Orchids Chinese Dance Team appeared on stage wearing pristine white costumes that bled into very long blue flowing sleeves that touched the floor. They danced by twirling these sleeves around in fluid motions and shooting them out in different directions. At some points in the dance, the dancers stood in a straight line and elegantly pointed at the audience, shooting their sleeves first to the left and then to the right of the stage. 

After Lan Yun, the Jewish a capella group Ketzev performed. The group performs songs in both English and Hebrew, including those that illustrate the history of Jewish people. They performed two songs, both of which were sung in Hebrew. The group was incredibly talented and blended well. The two female soloists had strong commanding voices that added a great deal of power to the group’s performance.

Baila!, a dance group whose mission is to promote, expand and empower Latin American culture and heritage through dance, was up next. The group incorporated a variety of dance styles including bachata, salsa, mambo and samba. The dancers were incredibly energetic, and they demonstrated a gifted ability for rhythmic and stylish dancing to Latin American music.

Hopkins Breakers, a breakdancing group, took to the stage next, dancing to a mix of older hip-hop beats from the ‘70s to the ‘90s. In between a dance move called top rocking, some of the guys dropped to the ground and began spinning around in a move called the 6-step. The second half of the performance included ‘90s hip-hop beats, as some of the performers began more acrobatic moves, freezing in upside-down position with one arm for support, or spinning around. 

Temps d'Afrique African Dance Troupe (TDA) walked on stage next, to probably the largest amount of cheering and screaming that night. There were clearly a ton of TDA enthusiasts in the audience. TDA incorporated both traditional and modern African dance movements that night, and they also sampled a variety of African music genres. A group of mostly women organized on stage and began dancing to African beats, many of which sounded like club hits and were infectious. Their dancing was as emphatic and as strong as the music — they and Baila! both staked strong claims to the best rhythm that night.  

Last but not least, Blue Jay Bhangra appeared, starting in the ‘90s and focusing on Bhangra, a modern dance style from the region of Punjab. They mixed traditional Punjabi folk music with R&B and hip-hop beats for the background music of their performance. They performed a variation on a traditional dance that celebrated the harvest in Punjab. It was almost manic, with fast alternating footwork and lots of spinning around the stage. They used different props, including something called a saap which expanded and contracted and long thin poles with different colored tassels at the ends.

The 31st Annual Culture Show by OMA was such a worthwhile way to spend the evening, and it was fantastic to see all these student groups perform, either in song or dance, and showcase different traditions and elements from their cultures. My personal highlights were Lan Yun, Ketzev, Baila!, TDA and Blue Jay Bhangra. The next time one of these groups performs on campus, I would highly recommend you consider spending an evening at their event.

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