International Fiesta, the annual cultural dance competition that pits the international clubs on campus against one another, took the main stage at the Center for the Arts this past Saturday.
The Latin American Student Association (LASA) took home first place.
This year's show, with a "global kaleidoscope" theme, highlighted five different cultures and Student Association clubs: LASA, Filipino American (FASA), Japanese (JSA), Malaysian (MASA), and Indian (ISA). Each club danced an eight- to 10-minute routine that paid homage to its culture's national dance.
"[This was called a kaleidoscope] to illustrate how International Fiesta has always been a channel for UB students to have a glimpse into different cultures, and to experience these cultures without even having to leave the campus," said Janice Tong, the international council coordinator and a senior social sciences interdisciplinary major with a concentration in international studies.
The show takes about a year to produce, and the dancers have prepared for the last four to five months. Although some of the performers may have limited dance backgrounds, it is hard to notice since each club had been practicing almost every night for the last month.
"I hope that through this, the student body of UB and the general public will have a better understanding and even just take a glimpse at all the different cultures that we present," Tong said. "[The dancers have] passion toward their own heritage, and the eagerness to spread their culture."
The night opened up with a one-of-a-kind rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," performed on electric guitar by Andrew Liu, a senior health and human services major who performed with LASA later in the show.
In addition to the five competitive dances, there were four exhibition performances. Exhibitions are non-competitive dances, usually because some members are not UB students or simply because of preference.
The first exhibition act was the CTH Lion Dance Troupe presented by the Vietnamese Student Association. It was an act that featured vibrant-colored Vietnamese dragons getting drunk, which filled the audience with laughter.
The second, UB Zeal, a fusion group of dancers with South Asian backgrounds, incorporated a few different types of dance styles in its act. The group also danced on top of chairs, which grabbed the crowd's attention. The third exhibition act was Melange, which means "mixture" in French. This dance combined tango, salsa, and a traditional Arabic dance called Dabkeh.
The final exhibition was a band called Random Nation, so named because each member is from random nations. Liu, who performed the national anthem, is also a member of the band. The band played unique covers of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," and Michael Jackson's, "Billie Jean," as well as others.
FASA, champions of last year's show, performed first and set the bar high. FASA is one of the larger clubs with over 50 members. Their dance promoted Filipino culture through not only the dancing, but also through the music and dress.
Their costumes helped reflect their cultural traditions with lively colors from emerald green to fuchsia and purple. Props such as fans, swords, shields, ladders and bamboo poles strengthened their effort to portray Filipino history. As winners of last year's competition, the pressure was certainly on the club.
"We don't want to hype up the crowd and say anything about last year, but there is a lot of pressure especially because there is only five clubs competing," said Harrison Nguyen, one of the Masters of Ceremonies (MC), a member of FASA, and a senior math major. "If we don't make one of the top three spots, it's going to look pretty bad."
JSA performed next; their dances told the story of a geisha falling in love with a samurai, which is frowned upon in Japanese culture. The dance incorporated beautiful yellow and green kimonos, as well as pink umbrellas that added a touch of additional color.
JSA also showcased a traditional knife fight, which resulted in the geisha's death when she comes in between her samurai and another. Fortunately, the dancing revived her, but the geisha and the samurai part ways in the end.
MASA performed a dance that depicted an authentic Malay wedding. The dancers were adorned in red scarves along with red fans that depicted banners being waved through the air. There were many dances within their act, as separate groups performed to entertain the bride and groom.
The movie A Night at the Museum inspired ISA's dance, which was loud and energetic. The women wore brightly colored belly-dancing-esque skirts, which jingled with each move they made. The ISA was especially notable because its incorporated stunts, including a basket toss and tumbling.
LASA started off with shirtless men on stage, which then progressed into fast-paced Latin dances, such as salsa. For one dance, the men wore sombreros and ponchos while the women wore red skirts and red bandanas. The rich, red color helped illuminate LASA's culture.
"[Each club] went hard, they all practiced hard, they all put in work, they got props, they got colors, the costumes are cool, always represents the culture, they're very flowy," said Ahmed Jahmi, another MC and a senior geography major.
The incentive to win the competition extends past pride and bragging rights; the first-place club received $1000. Second place received $750, and third place, $550.
"Everyone has worked so hard this year. I've seen sweat, blood and tears put into this, and that's not a lie – people have actually bled," said Carlos Camacho, another MC of the Fiesta, vice president of LASA, and a senior in sociology.
LASA has 35 members, but had around 50 people in its dance – club membership is not required to participate.
While the clubs are competing against one another in the hopes to win the title and the money, each club is rooting for one another, too. A member of FASA even danced for LASA this year.
"I would love for my club to win but as long as the other club that wins brings it and fights to the finish, I will be happy seeing them win because I know that they deserve it," Camacho said.
Camacho was extremely happy when Tong announced LASA as the winner of the competition. The group fought to the finish and became $1,000 richer. ISA followed in second and JSA in third.
"It's a lot of hard work putting this show together and it's a lot of time put into it as well," Tong said.
The hard work seemed to pay off; International Fiesta remains one of the most highly anticipated events at UB. If it continues selling out shows and filling up the CFA as it did yesterday, it will have no problem continuing for years to come.
For those students who have been inspired to become a part of a club, want to be a dancer next year, or both, visit 350 Student Union to gain more information.