UB's Indian Student Association wins International Fiesta

Mahatma Gandhi-themed performance tells story of legacy

Mahatma Gandhi took center stage, struck his staff on the ground and watched the realm around him swirl into the changes that he had wished to see during his lifetime.

This was the story the Indian Student Association (ISA) told through dance to win International Fiesta in the Center for the Arts Saturday night. The use of vibrant traditional garbs in coordination with customary dance and aerial acrobatics won over the judges and the audience.

International Fiesta is an annual dance competition that allows UB’s international organizations a chance to show off their respective cultures. Seven organizations competed for the trophy, but a total of 14 performed, which dancers and organizers say takes long hours of dedication and preparation.

Rohan Kapoor, ISA president and a senior business major, said ISA has a “history” with International Fiesta, as the club won the competition two years ago and placed second last year when the Latin American Student Association (LASA) claimed first place.

“Last year LASA’s performance was great and forced us to have to step up our game,” Kapoor said.

About 30-40 dancers and members helped ISA win this year’s trophy. The club began practicing at the start of the semester about six week ago, and met three times a week to make the performance a reality.

ISA used its performance to honor the legacy of Gandhi, the nonviolent leader in India’s independence movement from Great Britain. The performance also added a fifth style of dance to its usual four styles.

“We do classical, Bhangra, Garba and Bollywood,” Kapoor said. “This year we did those four forms but also included a section of martial arts.”

Adding martial arts to its performance produced an intensity that no other dance could capture because of the faster pace that martial arts yields.

Tanmeet Chawla, one of ISA’s dance coordinators and a junior psychology major, called the practices leading up to International Fiesta hard, but was relieved ISA got the trophy.

“We were trying to make sure we could be as clean and creative as possible,” she said.“We’ve been doing the same thing for a couple of years now but we wanted to change it up.”

The Malaysian Student Association took second place and the Filipino American Student Association came in third. Last year’s champions LASA did not place this year, but took it in stride.

“In our hearts we’re still winners,” said Kanishka Wanninayaka, LASA dance coordinator and a sophomore psychology major. “We worked as a family. We’ll always be a family.”

Jefry Taveras, a junior psychology major and assistant dance coordinator for LASA, said he would go home Saturday night and party with this LASA “family.”

“Maybe next year we’ll win – no, we will win next year,” Taveras said.

The theater was packed and the audience didn’t have a hard time keeping up the energy throughout the entire show. Saturday was Mikayla Fayo’s first International Fiesta, as she attended to see her friend who performed with the Turkish Student Association.

“I know they’ve all been practicing for weeks and it really paid off,” Fayo, a sophomore biomedical sciences and psychology major, said.

Fayo said that she loved all of the performances and that she was happy for all of her other friends who participated, including her friend in ISA who played Gandhi.

The Turkish Student Association performed at International Fiesta for the first time in the club’s history alongside the Vietnamese Student Association. In a brief video documentary before their performances, both groups said they were honored to be participating and that they worked hard to make their performances great.

“It’s crazy to think how much work you put into these things, the amount of stress you go through to create these pieces and it’s literally all for eight minutes – and they go by quick,” Taveras said.

Rong Lin, a sophomore occupational therapy major, understands how much work clubs put into their performances because his girlfriend is president of the FASA.

“I think that the work of every club produced was great,” Lin said.

FASA told the story of a father passing down the traditions of his people to his son. When his father died, the son took over and helped keep the traditions of his culture alive.

Lin said that he loved the finale with every participating club on the stage cheering and celebrating together.

ISA now has bragging rights until next year’s fiesta.

Tomas Olivier is a features editor and Luke Heuskin is an assistant arts editor. Questions and comments about this piece can be directed to arts@ubspectrum.com