UB's International Council prepares for 'International Fiesta 2019: Human Nature'

Club members discuss Saturday's competition


International Fiesta has always been a way for UB students to display cultural pride.

The annual dance competition, which will be held on Saturday, presents a variety of performances rooted in different cultures.

Student Association clubs have put a semester of work into this year’s presentation of International Fiesta 2019: Human Nature, which will celebrate cultural differences of clubs ranging from Korean SA to Buffalo Bhangra. 

The event will take place at the Center for the Arts, where 15 clubs in total participate in the grandiose event. Eight of them are international organizations like Indian SA, Malaysian SA and Latin American SA. The evening is centered around the dance competition, but this year brings some change.

Dhiral Patel, vice president of Indian SA, discussed the difficulty of adapting the club’s performance to the theme and the challenges associated with organizing Indian SA’s performance. 

“We took a literal approach to the theme, but it all depends on how people interpret human nature,” Patel said. “We’re trying to bring out the general emotions that impact most people [and] we want to show the audience how it affects them.”

Elise Helou, coordinator of the International Council, which oversees UB’s international clubs, said that this year’s International Fiesta explores the experiences that shape human nature and the variety found in human cultures.

“We, as humans, are molded by our experiences. Likewise, the same can be said about cultural groups of people,” Helou said. “My intention with choosing the theme was to have each competing act highlight what course of events or event shaped their individual culture and set it apart from all the rest, with a focus on feeling, thinking and acting.”

Helou said she would focus primarily on assisting the clubs involved this year.

“Through my experience participating in Fiesta, there were some things I had wished were done for us that I wanted to give to my clubs,” Helou said. 

Helou wished there was a Fiesta info meeting, a group photo session the day of the show, a chance to send judges a portfolio to give them a better idea of the individual cultures and “clear communication” of deadlines. 

Helou expects a high turnout for the event and feels the SA and the organizations participating have advertised the event well.

“One-thousand free undergrad tickets were all handed out within five days, which is really satisfying,” Helou said. “It feels good knowing people are looking forward to attending the event.”

Helou said she had to book the CFA in August and began arranging club details, like practice-room reservations and deadlines during winter break.

The Latin American Student Association is one of the groups that has been preparing for the competition. This year, the club’s piece will focus on Puerto Rican dances, such as Taíno Arawak, Bomba, Salsa, Reggaeton and Latin trap.

Joedie Padilla, a LASA alum and one of the 10 choreographers involved in their performance, said the focus on Puerto Rico was meant to highlight their history of survival. 

“Throughout history, Puerto Rico has had series of events that have challenged the people of the island to survive,” Padilla said. “Puerto Ricans are experts on using music as a way to express themselves and bring people together. What better way to tell the story of the people of Puerto Rico than through its art and music on the night of Fiesta?”

Padilla hopes their performance reaches the Puerto Rican population in Buffalo.

“After Puerto Rico’s most recent events, it’s important for us to bring their story to light and use that as an example to show the audience the power of staying strong and unified when it comes to surviving,” Padilla said. “We believe that our performance will be able to touch people of different backgrounds that could relate to our story.”

Clubs outside of the council are also participating in International Fiesta. UB Breakdance has been preparing for its performance at the competition. The group has been a part of International Fiesta every year.

Lloyd Tanedo, the president of UB Breakdance sees this performance as an opportunity to show how breakdancing has changed over the years. 

“[Breakdancing] is not what everyone expects now,” Tanedo said. “People think it’s only spinning on your head, only rap and hip-hop. But it’s evolved to a different level now.”

Many groups are excited for the performance, with Helou hinting a special surprise for the audience.

“I'm looking forward to seeing their reaction. I'm excited to be on the other side of the show for once and be a support to the groups performing,” Helou said. “I'm also so appreciative of the opportunity to combine the three things I love most: event planning, dance and my amazing, talented, hard-working and dedicated International organizations.”

Human Nature will take place on the CFA Mainstage on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Samantha Vargas contributed reporting to this story.

Julianna Tracey is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at julianna.tracey@ubspectrum.com.


 Julianna Tracey is a freshman music theater and history double major. She’s excited to explore all that the Buffalo arts scene has to offer.