The Chicanx Student Movement of Aztln (M.E.Ch.A.) is concerned with showcasing a culture that has historically been sidelined. For senior and M.E.Ch.A. president Karla Medina Alamar, the I-Fair Cultural Showcase is tied to the organization’s political message.
“We came out of the Chicano movement and a lot of that had to do with education initiatives and showing our culture because really we Ñ as Chicanos, as Latinx peopleÑwere thrown off to the side,” Medina said. “So a lot of that comes with just representing ourselves. In relation to how M.E.Ch.A. started, [I-Fair] allows us to keep displaying our roots and our culture as something vibrant and just show the diverse dances that there are.”
The club performed a folkloric dance from the state of Jalisco in Mexico. The dance was a zapateado, meaning it involved intricate footwork. Dancers donned traditional outfits from Jalisco, black and white charro suits and long, colorful skirts.
“It was just a lot of dedication that we always put into it,” Medina said. “Our mindset is if we’re going to do it then it has to be the best that it can be so that’s what we strive for.”
The two dances that Japanese Club performed highlighted traditional and popular culture in Japan. The traditional dance, Soran Bushi, originated with the fishermen of Hokkaido, a northern island of Japan. Sophomore Hana Miyabayashi said that the dance has since been adapted for physical education classes in Japanese elementary schools.
“Each movement has a meaning and we use two phrases, the ‘Dokkoi syo’ and ‘so-ran,’ [which were] to cheer the fishermen up,” Miyabayashi said.
The second dance was to “Odoru Ponpokorin” by E-Girls, a popular Japanese girl group. The song is the opening theme for a Japanese anime called Chibi Maruko-chan.
“It’s about a little nine-year-old girl and her family and it’s like a childhood memory for all older Japanese people. It’s like Tom and Jerry to us,” Miyabayashi said. “This anime broadcasts on Sunday at 6 so it’s very common for families to gather watching this anime, having dinner.”
Japanese Club allows students to share their love of Japanese culture, but the events are usually attended by students with a specific interest in the subject. Miyabayashi is grateful for the opportunity to showcase Japanese culture on a campus-wide platform.
“I-Fair is special and unique because people who are not very interested in Japanese culture have the opportunity to touch our cultures,” she said.
AAINA performed the Bhangra and Kathak, traditional dances from the Indian subcontinent, as well as Bollywood-inspired moves. Sophomore Misha Zahid, who performed a Kathak, said the dance has evolved from one that was historically performed for Indian kings and emperors to a form of artistic expression for women.
“The primary thing of Kathak is we wear anklets and they have bells on them and that’s how you make the music,” Zahid said. “The word Kathak basically means storytelling. So even though the song I was dancing to was instrumental I had to tell a story, so if you saw my expressions you would see that the story I was telling was of love and this person falling into love.”
Bhangra is a celebratory, expressive dance performed to the beat of a drum called a Dhol.
“It’s very group-based,” senior and AAINA president Iman Ghosh said. “At weddings and parties they’ll have the drum and they’ll do it.”
Junior and AAINA member Nimay Ravi hopes to see cultural events like I-Fair become more far-reaching and normalized on campus.
Ghosh, Zahid and Ravi appreciate how passionate people are about their different performances and the support that the I-Fair Cultural Showcase fosters between cultural clubs.
“It kind of feels like being at home a little bit because you’re all hanging out together and working on something traditional,” Ghosh said.
The executive board of Korean Club spent several days practicing their dance moves to execute the demanding choreography to their Korean-pop medley.
K-pop is Korean pop music, although this label extends across numerous genres besides pop. While the music is mainly popular in Asia, K-pop has risen in popularity in numerous places around the world, reaching a number of European countries. The music has gained a large following in the United States as well.
Sophomore Khanh Linh Duong, who performed with the Korean Club’s executive board and is a fan of K-pop, said she appreciates the music for the global reach it has developed in the last few years. She further remarked that K-pop has evolved from its original state, saying the music, melody and beat have become more diverse in their composition. She believes this is one of the reasons K-pop has grown in popularity over the years.
“What I like about K-pop is music brought people closer. When you go to a K-pop concert, you can see that there are many different people there,” Duong said. “I wouldn’t say it’s strange, but it would not be something usual to see when it’s a concert that many people who look very different from each other would go there.”
The medley performed by the executive members of Korean Club consisted of three songs: “Playing with Fire” by Blackpink, “Energetic” by Wanna One, and “Go Go” by BTS. BTS was the first Korean group to win a Billboard Music Award in 2017.
As K-pop grows to be a more global genre that people from all backgrounds can appreciate, the audience of the cultural showcase set an indicative backdrop for the magnitude of K-pop fans: people of all cultures coming together to share a universal love for music.
Before the finale of this year’s cultural showcase, the Vietnamese Student Association took the stage with a traditional dance performed in two parts. The participating students first danced to a traditional song, and then to the modern, popular song “Bo Dạt My Tri.”
This dance is representative of life in the Vietnamese countryside, and the students wore traditional, time-honored dress from the past to highlight the culture. Their particular movements are typically performed for certain celebrations, such as anniversaries, meetings for global relations, or the national Vietnamese independence day.
Since ASA focused on different elements of Asian cultures in their performance this year, Vietnamese students collaborated together on their own schedules to put the show together. This effort gave the performance a special feel for one of the VSA dancers, sophomore Khanh Linh Duong.
“Doing the Vietnamese dance is a way for me to connect with other Vietnamese students on campus; it’s a chance to represent the culture.” Duong said. “Even if a dance might not say much about the culture [as a whole], it can definitely can say something [about] a part of the culture.”
After reviewing this year’s I-Fair with friends, Duong also commented that this year’s fair felt more community-oriented, while the emphasis was mostly on cultural pride last year. While pride certainly remained present, Duong explained that many of this year’s showcases were performed in groups, in comparison to numerous solo performances last year.
“The showcase this year looks more like a community than last year,” said Duong. “Last year was more about representing the nation, and having pride in the nation, but this year is about representing the whole community, and the performances seemed to make an effort to say that we are in a community.”
The Asian Student Association danced to “Affections Touching Across Time (Ost)”. The song was on the soundtrack for a Japanese movie called “Inuyasha.” During the dance, American, Japanese and Vietnamese students wore traditional Chinese dress.
The traditional Japanese dance contained components of Asian culture. The movement particularly emphasized reservation within the culture and not showing much of oneself. While modern dancing consists of intense, hard dance steps, it is commonplace in Asian dance to move slowly.
While the dances were traditional, the songs were modern. The type of dance is performed in many Asian countries, often at high school events for entertainment purposes. Freshman Nguyen Dieu Linh was among the performers for both Asian and Vietnamese student associations. She shared her thoughts on being able to share her culture through dancing at international fair.
“[The dance] represents diversity of Knox and it serves as a kind of propaganda of the culture; to make people get a sense of how traditional women dress in the past,” Linh said.