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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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‘We did what we came here to do’: Students celebrate their communities in International Fiesta

The club’s ‘harmony-themed’ performances showcased resilience, unity and strength

<p>For many groups, the emotional and physical efforts taken to execute the dances was worth it in order to tell the stories integral to their cultures.&nbsp;</p>

For many groups, the emotional and physical efforts taken to execute the dances was worth it in order to tell the stories integral to their cultures. 

The Indian Student Association (ISA) took home first prize at last Saturday’s International Fiesta with a bold, exciting dance in homage to India’s struggles to free itself from British colonizers. The Filipino American Student Association (FASA) cemented second place while the Bengali Student Association (BSA) achieved third. 

Per a well-loved tradition, the Buffalo Bhangra — a Buffalo/Western New York dance group — opened International Fiesta for the third year in a row. The group’s act — a Punjabi traditional folk dance with colorful costumes, flashing lights and an adrenaline-inducing mix of contemporary and traditional music — set the standard for the night’s performances.

“On stage, it was so surreal,” Riya Mariya Alex, a junior biological sciences major and Buffalo Bhangra’s team manager, said. “Lights are on you. People are crying, they’re sweating everywhere… It takes a lot out of you.”

Many other student dance groups endured lengthy rehearsals, hours of fine-tuning choreography and “hell week” to prepare their performances for International Fiesta — but being able to tell their cultures’ stories through dance was worth the effort.

The Organization of Arabic Students (OAS) chose to dedicate their interpretation of harmony to Palestinians and “amplify the voice of a nation united in the harmony of resilience,” according to Sara Abdalla, a junior architecture major and president of OAS. A performer laid dead as others marched around them in a circle and chanted as sounds of explosions interrupted the music, a scene meant to represent the deaths of Palestinian people in multiple bombings of Gaza. The acts also honored the people’s resilience and determination to not let violence ruin their identities.


The UB Organization of Arabic Students (OAS) dedicated its International Fiesta performance to Palestinians.

Both of their performances inspired the audience to chant, “Free, free Palestine.” 

“We did not place today, but we did what we came here to do,” Abdalla said. “Everyone saw, everyone remembered [and] reignit[ed] the flame. Everyone is still on to what’s going on, and no one forgot.” 

The characters in FASA chose to tell their own story with a narrative depicted two clashing communities overcoming animosity and tensions.The story incorporated Tinikling, a dance centered around tapping bamboo poles in a rhythmic pattern, and Arnis, a martial art that uses bamboo canes in sparring sequences.

The dynamic performance stole a spot in the audience’s hearts, as the team claimed the audience-voted award for “Most Inspirational.”

“We’re doing it for the community, because they have a little thing called ‘Bayanihan’ which means ‘spirit in unity,’” Ethan Kendrick Garcia, a junior geography major and FASA educational chair, said. “And that’s what we’re all about. We’re all one family.” 

Harmony is also a state to achieve within oneself. Kasanova — a dance team under the Korean Student Association (KSA) — focused on supporting each member’s individuality to highlight the power of self-confidence. 

“Some people are more fierce on stage,” Trishani Sudanandan, a junior psychology and criminology major and KSA secretary, said. “Some people are more smiley and bubbly on stage. And usually it doesn’t really clash together. It’s kind of nice to have each dance see each dancer’s unique style come out.”

In all, this year’s International Fiesta celebrated the continuation of the joy in celebrating diversity and cultures with no small amount of accomplishments.

Mylien Lai is the assistant arts editor and can be contacted at 

The arts desk can be reached at  


Mylien Lai is an assistant arts editor at The Spectrum. Outside of getting lost in Buffalo, she enjoys practicing the piano and being a bean plant mom. She can be found at @my_my_my_myliennnn on Instagram. 



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