International Fiesta on Saturday will celebrate diversity by exploring cultural journeys

A multicultural showcase


After being elected International Club Coordinator, Tazrin Hossain didn’t know what she wanted the theme of this year’s International Fiesta to be; she just knew she wanted it to be different from previous years’ broad themes of myths, folktales and love.

She still didn’t know until she was rereading Homer’s “Odyssey” over the summer and thought about how every culture has its own journey.

This year’s International Fiesta starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Center for the Arts’ Mainstage Theater. This year’s Fiesta, focused around “the great journey,” features five competitive acts, along with 10 exhibition acts and some videos from clubs that can’t participate, but still represent UB’s diversity – something Hossain wanted to highlight.

“There is a journey within every culture,” Hossain said. “Whether it’s an internal, coming of age, personal journey or the Odyssey, or Epic of Gilgamesh, something that’s physical.” 

Hossain began tentatively planning International Fiesta over the summer when she chose the theme. She’s always loved how Fiesta highlights the diversity of cultures found on campus.

“Ever since I was a freshman, it was this great event that brought people of different cultures together and showcased the different and unique aspects of their cultures in a format people typically enjoy,” Hossain said.

As she got more involved in clubs and joined the International Club Council, she noticed Fiesta is often “geared” toward bigger clubs. She wanted to change that.

Hossain encouraged more exhibition acts, allowing more clubs to participate in Fiesta.

“I told clubs, you don’t have to compete to be a part of the show,” Hossain said. “If you have any kind of any sort of dance performance, that is welcome, that is something you can showcase and bring to the table.”

She had clubs in the International Club Council that aren’t participating in Fiesta record a video wishing performers good luck.

While 1,750 people fill the Mainstage Theater for what is usually a sold-out event, Hossain will be backstage making sure her months of work go according to plan.

With the help of Student Association staff, Hossain has to ensure clubs are in the right place and in the right order, that they have enough time to change costumes with many dancers participating in competition and exhibition acts.

While Hossain is backstage, the MCs steal the spotlight, ensuring the event is entertaining.

This year’s MCs, Corinne Zee, Allen Liu and Greg Bellanton were given creative freedom by Hossain, which they initially found daunting.

Zee said without a “cap” on what they could do, they thought about everything from Pokémon costumes or doing bits based on HBO’s popular series Game of Thrones.

“It has been nothing but fun, but it has also been a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be,” said Zee, a senior intended exercise science and psychology major. “MCs make it look easy every year and then when you think about problems that may happen … like names being said incorrectly, those little hiccups … just making everything seem funnier [and] more enjoyable.”

After finding out they would be MCs, Zee, Bellanton and Liu watched performances from earlier years to avoid recycling previous material. Then, they began planning out where each of them would be throughout the event, what they would say and how they wanted their role as MCs to go.

As a member of the Filipino Student Association, one of five clubs competing at Fiesta this year, Zee had to turn down the opportunity to choreograph their performance when she was asked to be an MC.

“I want to be a part of their club but, at the same time, to be an MC is friggin’ awesome,” Zee said.

While the MCs move throughout the Mainstage Theater, delivering jokes and moving the performance along, dancers for exhibition and competitive acts change costumes and get in place on stage.

When the curtains open one thing is clear; it’s their show.

Clubs work rigorously to perfect their performance and make it as polished as possible, which is especially true for the five competing clubs: the Filipino SA, Indian SA, Japanese SA, Latin American SA and Malaysian SA.

Rohan Kapoor, a sophomore business administration major and president of the Indian Student Association (ISA), said his club held tryouts last semester and has been practicing every day since the second week of this semester.

“We’ve been going at it every day since about the second week of [this semester],” Kapoor said in an email. “With four forms of dance, it takes a lot of effort and dedication to bring everything together.”

ISA, as the winner of International Fiesta for the past two years, is working to take the top prize for its third year. Like their performance in previous years, their act incorporates four forms of dance, including Bollywood, classical, Garba-Raas and Bhangra.

“I think for us the most important thing is putting on a great show. After back-to-back wins, we have set high expectations for ourselves,” Kapoor said. “We often have our peers come up to us and tell us how excited they are to see us perform at Fiesta, so what’s most special for us is the love and support we have from the UB community.”

Kapoor wouldn’t give any details about their performance other than that it’s based on an Indian Epic, which translates to “A Hero’s Journey” from Sanskrit, but the audience can accept a few surprises.

One thing ISA did differently was work with SA videographer Joshua Cruz to make sure they have the “most unique, if not, the best intro video this year,” according to Kapoor. Cruz and ISA used green screens and range of editing software to finish Kapoor’s vision for the video and “left no stone unturned.”

Cruz told Kapoor the video’s one-minute-and-1-second runtime was a short film and not an intro video.

This year’s Fiesta has five competing acts, 10 exhibition acts – the most in at least five years – and the return of African Student Association for the first time since 2008.

As clubs and MCs finalize their performances and work out the kinks during “hell week,” students can still get tickets.

Although SA sold out of free tickets for undergraduate students Wednesday afternoon, Tickets are still on sale for $7 at the CFA Box Office and can be bought for $10 at the door for the 7:30 p.m. show.