Indian SA takes first place at International Fiesta

SA's International Fiesta showcases pride theme

When Bobby Lundy showed off his intense acrobatics by flipping on stage Saturday night, the crowd went wild.

The junior civil engineering major’s contribution was an exclamation point in a first-place-winning performance by the Indian Student Association at International Fiesta.

The club tackled this year’s theme, pride, by highlighting and encompassing cultural discovery. The dancers matched intense and intricate choreography with story-telling, rising above their competition.

ISA left victorious after competing against five other clubs from the International Council. Pride meant something different to each competing group at Saturday night’s show. The Malaysian SA came in second place, with the Latin American Student Association in third. The event had a budget of $18,000, just under last year’s budget of roughly $20,000. During a night of diverse performances, ISA told a story of cultural acceptance.

ISA’s performance explored issues of cultural identity and took the crowd through the life of an Indian-American girl discovering an appreciation for her culture and its traditions after moving back to India. Dancers moved in unison through fast-paced choreography, wearing elegant attire and generating the loudest applause of the night.

Anmol Patel, vice president of ISA and senior biomedical sciences major, said she had a personal connection to the performance and was proud to represent her heritage.

“A lot of Indian Americans who grow up here aren’t that familiar with their culture, language or festivals, and they’re kind of ashamed of who we are. For example, myself and a lot of other members would get made fun of in school for being Indian, wearing henna on our hands or for the food we eat,” Patel said. “We were not proud of being Indian, but as we grow older and realize our diverse festivals and culture, we are really proud of who we are and holding our head high.”

The performance took the crowd through Indian festivals such as Pongal, Navratri and Diwali. Through this introduction of her heritage, the character in the performance began appreciating her culture.

LASA, the previous year’s champion, executed an electrifying performance despite placing in third, highlighting the historic struggle of the LGBTQ community in Latin America.

The performance began with a trigger warning and touched on topics like sexual violence and suicide in the Latin American LGBTQ community.

It followed the story of a young man who took his life after not being accepted for his sexual orientation. The performance featured scenes of men forcing their will upon women, a funeral procession and a gay-pride parade float.

Jefry Taveras, LASA’s dance liaison and senior psychology major, said he felt it was a message he needed to express after growing up in a conservative household and seeing his friends bullied for their sexual orientation. He thought of the idea two years ago and decided to incorporate it with this year’s theme.

“I had an idea of not talking about Latin culture itself but just talking about an issue that’s really prevalent,” Taveras said. “I would love to use International Fiestas to talk about things that are greater than just our culture and use our culture as a medium to portray that message.”

Taveras said he was surprised to hear boos from the crowd, but saw the importance in highlighting what he sees as a controversial topic.

The performance ended with dancers taking the stage to show support for the LGBTQ community, holding up rainbow flags and the letters of the word “pride.”

Alyssa Palacios, a freshman biomedical science major, came to the event to support her boyfriend in ISA.

“Honestly, at first I was little skeptical to come, but my roommates came together and it was so much fun and I understand why it’s a UB tradition,” Palacios said. “I actually really want to do it next year with LASA because I’m Mexican so I thought it would be really fun to join that group.”

MASA’s performance featured a tightly choreographed sword fight and promoted feminist ideals through powerful visual storytelling.

They were happy to have won second place, but are aiming for first next year, according to MASA president Jing Yang Kuo.

Bangladesh SA, Filipino American SA, Organization of Arab Students and Balkan SA also competed in the event, touching topics like freedom of speech, overcoming colonization and cultural achievements.

Jamersin Redfern, former SA vice president and last year’s LASA president, performed with LASA and ripped his shirt off when the group placed third.

“International Fiesta is my favorite SA event of all time and will continue to be for the fact that everybody from different cultures gets to express themselves in any way they feel is necessary,” Redfern said. “With Latin American Student Association talking about gay pride and ISA speaking about the gods and things like that, there’s many different definitions of pride. No matter what story you come out with … it’s about how you display it and how you portray it.”

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Brenton J. Blanchet is The Spectrum's editor-in-chief and a senior communication major. He specializes in interviews with rising pop stars, but makes sure to still give UB the news scoop. Blanchet contributes to Billboard, DJBooth, and other publications in his free time.