A fiery fiesta

ISA claims crown at entertaining 2014 International Fiesta

The Spectrum

Loud chanting reverberated throughout the Center For the Arts. The walls shook as the Indian Student Association (ISA) took over the stage.

After using vivacious colors, flawless timing and exquisite dancing to convey the story of the Taj Mahal, ISA won the crowd's approval and took home its second straight first-place award at the 2014 International Fiesta Friday night.

The event included 14 clubs' performances, which told tales of love and tragedy - creating an engaging atmosphere for the packed audience - in keeping with the theme of "myths, legends and folklore."

The Student Association brought back three alumni guest emcees for the evening - Andrea Ortiz, David Cobb and Harrison Nyguen - who, in the show's introduction, appeared on stage as silhouettes against a red background, the aesthetics demanding the audience's attention.

The crowd began rising to its feet; the energy was palpable.

But the room's emotion reached its highpoint during the performance from ISA, the most colorful group of the night. Combinations of Bollywood, Garba/Raas, Bhangra and classical dance styles told the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal.

"There's a lot of myths and folklores in Indian culture," said Priya Sasankan, the president of Indian SA. "The problem is, a lot of our stories are a long epic. Through traditional dancing, it takes about 15-20 minutes to tell those stories and do it justice."

The clubs were allowed a maximum of eight minutes. The use of 'the sapp' - a Bhangra percussion instrument - and the dancers' multi-colored clothing added a nice ambiance to the routine.

ISA excited the crowd and captured the tale with its tightly choreographed and polished moves. The spectators chanted "ISA" in approval.

"There was a lot of energy," said Haider Tawakali, a freshman exercise science major. "Indian SA was definitely on top. They pulled the energy out of everybody. They went above and beyond."

Following close behind the Indian SA, in second place, was the Malaysian Student Association (MaSA), with its performance of the famous "Legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang."

The story was full of magnificent romance, telling of 'The Sultan' and his quest to marry a beautiful princess.

MaSA used an interesting choreography strategy that made the princess the center of attention. The interchangeability of the colors that lit the stage elegantly conveyed the mood of the action and evoked a trance-like state from the audience. Warm yellows and reds excited the audience during uplifting moments, while the use of cool blues and greens calmed them down as the tale became more somber. It was a strong balance.

The second-place finish for MaSA was the first placement in the club's history.

The Japanese Student Association (JSA) rounded out the top finishers with a gentle presentation of an aggressive battle between Raijin, God of Thunder, and Fuijin, God of Wind.

Their performance had a fitting range and pace as it intertwined contemporary and hip-hop moves with traditional Japanese dancing. And just when audience members thought the performance was winding down, a memorable battle scene broke out.

JSA's combination of choreography, set pieces, music and theatrics made for one of the many memorable performances from the evening.

"We're very excited," said Jason Hesch, who played Raijin. Hesch is a senior media study major and works as JSA's public relations officer. "We started practicing last semester, right before Thanksgiving break. And it's been non-stop ever since. It's literally been every night."

Hesch also said the audience's energy helped drive the performance.

Although these performances were trophy winners, they weren't the only crowd-pleasers during the evening. Almost every group brought something unique to the stage - from break dancing to risqu?(c) burlesque to Vietnamese Lion Dances.

"I thought the evening was very multi-cultural," said Devin Sanford, a sophomore engineering major. "It brought around a lot of nations and it showed different backgrounds of where people come from. I think it was a good lesson to show everybody."

Each performance captivated the raucous audience with its own unique flair.

"I was surprised myself," said Matt Siwiec, the International Council coordinator. "I did not expect this many people to come today. I know International Fiesta has been popular amongst the years but I was just like, 'wow.'"

email: arts@ubspectrum.com