Diversity of the University
Writer Holly S. Trowbridge
Photographs courtesy of Kevianna Adams
Large crowds of excited people, old and young alike, stood in line at the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center on the evenings of Feb. 23 and 24 for the annual International Nights performances. The event is put on by UHH students to reflect the cultural diversity of Hilo, and is anticipated by both students and the community.
Felicia Andrew, President of the International Student Association, explains, “International Nights is one of the biggest events that the International Student Association hosts during the spring semester. It’s a two night show and each night presents different cultural groups.” And as the event’s pamphlet specifies, “UH Hilo is the most diverse 4-year public campus in the United States.”
Friday night began with the clear and crisp synchronized beats of the Japanese taiko, performed by the group Taishoji Taiko. Taiko is a style of traditional Japanese percussion on large, barrel-shaped drums.
The Performing Arts Center Drama Club then performed a medley of Disney songs to represent American culture throughout the years. In a hilarious twist, the cast group incorporated elements of Hilo and the university. Well-known princesses and princes like Jasmine and Aladdin were much more realistic and relatable as college freshmen.
The next performance was put together by the Pohnpei Kaselehlie Club, who performed a combination of two traditional dances, Dokia and Wen. The narrator’s script read: “Pohnpei is one of the four states of the federated states of Micronesia,” and has a rich and deep culture that many were proud to experience.
The women performed Dokia, which is a seated performance involving small sticks and two long blocks of wood. The group entered the stage with their bare feet drumming on the floor to the beat. Once they were situated, the men and women began to sing and create a new rhythm with the sticks, traditionally called kedei, which are similar to the Hawaiian kala’au sticks. The men behind them began to go along with the beat by dancing the style of dance known as Wen. Together the piece was incredibly well-rehearsed and enriching, ending with a beautiful harmony.
“Now, let us travel all the way to Africa! Contemporary African Dance began rising in the late 70’s,” read the script. The Melanin Magic group presented their dance, which incorporated aerobic and hip-hop moves in front of a backdrop that utilized shadow against different warmly-colored backgrounds such as orange, red, and yellow.
After intermission, the Bayanihan Club performed a traditional dance from the Philippines. The act began with a princess carried out on stage, followed by a complex dance that was performed with long sticks shared between performers.
Then came a marvelous performance involving loops of flowers strung together. Five women in matching dresses each had one loop and together they did a series of intricate twisting dance moves, ending in a position which looked like one large flower on stage.
The next section of the piece involved two sets of two people performing a “bamboo dance,” which is the oldest form of folk dance in the Philippines. They began separately, but ended in one group with the bamboo hitting the floor and their feet jumping in between, blindfolded. They ended by performing to Kesha’s pop song, “Timber.”
Next came representation of another culture from the Pacific. “The island of Kosrae is one of the Federated States of Micronesia with only four villages,” announced the narrator, “but it has many qualities that make it unique and unlike any other place in the world. If you were to stand on our island and look at the mountains, you would see that it is shaped like a lady lying on her back.” For this reason, Kosrae is known as “the island of the sleeping lady.”
This presentation involved a slow dance to a song about the island, followed by the “kaspacsr,” a competitive male dance which involves beating sticks to determine who is the toughest in order to attract the ladies. During the kaspascr, sticks were flying, breaking, and splintering into the house. The performance concluded with a farewell song, incorporating dancers from both groups as a whole.
The performers representing Korea combined contemporary Korean pop with traditional song and dance. The Samoan dancers were last to perform, but certainly not the least. They put together a series of intriguing music and dance to depict the culture of their islands.
On Feb. 24, the event highlighted performances portraying dances from Tahiti, Japan, Palau, Ireland, Tonga, India, and the Marshall Islands. Overall, the International Nights of 2018 were a hit! If one finds interest in performing or volunteering for the next International Nights in 2019, feel free to contact the International Student Association or find more information on the school’s website.