32nd Annual Culture Show showcases student talent

By COLE DOUGLASS | November 21, 2019

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COURTESY OF COLE DOUGLASS

Students from many diverse communities performed at the Culture Show.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted the 32nd Annual Culture Show on Friday, Nov. 15. The event featured performances by 14 student groups — from the Gospel Choir’s heavenly harmonies to the Ladybirds’ sharp, graceful dance routines — all of which were centered around the event’s themes of resilience and strength, succinctly summarized by the event’s tag line: “We Rise.” 

The show kicked off with a performance by the Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe. As always, the performers’ nimble footwork did a fantastic job of bringing the troupe’s titular lion costumes to life; it was easy to get swept away in the performance and forget that the animals on stage were actually two people in a costume. At the end of the skit, the performers jumped off of the stage and cavorted through the aisles, and the combination of the up-close view of the gorgeous costumes and the performers’ dramatic antics brought a huge grin to my face. Though brief, their opening number was an absolute joy to watch.

The Culture Show also featured a number of impressive performances by the University’s a capella groups. Kranti showed off two powerful and uplifting numbers, while the Gospel Choir’s upbeat tunes plucked at my Catholic school heartstrings. Later in the show, Music Dynasty’s pieces had some bombastic finales that definitely helped keep energy and morale high as the show drew to a close. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Aishwarya Pradeep, vice president of Kranti, explained how the Culture Show provided the group with an opportunity to test out new material and practice for future performances.

“We were very excited to present the pieces that we selected, especially since it was the first time that one of the mixes — ‘Ek Dil Ek Jaan/Rise’ — was performed for an audience. We also feel more confident as we hope to use our experience from this show to hone in on and perfect our skills for future performances,” she said. “We feel grateful that we were given this wonderful opportunity to showcase our diverse talent to the Hopkins community and be a part of the larger motive, ‘We Rise.’"

I’d also like to spotlight Ketzev and their beautiful cover of “Hallelujah.” It was a really fantastic number, and the soloists (as well as the rest of the group) did a fantastic job of crafting a haunting, yet highly enjoyable piece. Even with the slight sound issues that occurred, “Hallelujah” was one of my favorite performances of the entire show.

Just like the vocal performances, the dance routines throughout the show all brought something different and incredibly entertaining to the table. 

The number by the Lan Yun Blue Orchids — a traditional Chinese dance team — was graceful and elegant, and it was incredible to watch the dancers come together and combine their body movements to recreate the image of a flower onstage. 

Zinda, Korean Pop Motion and Temps D’Afrique, on the other hand, put on very high-energy numbers that were just incredibly fun to watch. It was obvious that the performers were enjoying themselves, and their excitement was undeniably infectious.

The Filipino Student Association (FSA) and Baila! both emphasized the cultural and historical influences on their performances. The FSA performed two traditional Filipino dances, as well as a more contemporary number that concluded with the dancers brandishing the flag of the Philippines as an anticolonialist statement. Likewise Baila! performed several traditional dances and highlighted the ongoing struggles of Puerto Rico in the introduction to their set.

Blue Jay Bhangra’s demonstration of the group’s titular dance was another highlight of the evening. In the introduction to the dance, a representative from the group said that bhangra was a combination of smiling and jumping, and I am happy to report that their performance more than lived up to that description. The performers did a fantastic job of keeping up their energy despite the demands of the dance, and it was truly a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, the Ladybirds gave one of the most slick and stylish performances of the evening. The dancers combined very sharp and aggressive movements with graceful pirouettes, and that dynamic gave their routine a really engaging atmosphere. They also ended the number with what I can only describe as a chorus-line split, which was absolute perfection. 

The culture show ended just as it began: with a dance-slash-theatrical routine, this time performed by Shakti, the University’s competitive classical Indian dance team. The group’s dance told a traditional story about the incarnation of the Ganges river, and they did a fantastic job of integrating the narrative into their movements. It was a really beautiful piece, and served as an excellent endcap to the Culture Show.

In the end, this year’s Culture Show demonstrated the incredible diversity in the performance groups on campus. No two performances were quite the same, and each brought something new and entertaining to the Shriver stage. Throughout the show, it was clear that each group has a deep passion for their art and the culture that has influenced that art; they should all be proud of their contributions to the event. 

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