International Nights 2017

Performers wow audience with thrilling spectacle

News Writer Gina Selig Photographer Zach Gorski

Students sitting on the stage

As is tradition, February marks the month where UH Hilo hosts one of its most recognizable cultural events all semester - that of International Nights. The UH Hilo International Student Association presented 2017’s International Nights. UH Hilo is the most diverse four-year public campus in the United States and it proudly represents 33 countries, which together make up 20% of the world’s nations. International Nights is a tradition that has been held at UH Hilo for over a generation, with the intention to celebrate the many cultures found at UH Hilo. Of the 33 countries represented in the student body, this year’s International Nights featured performers from 15.

On Friday, Feb. 10, Sana Grace, Atlan Anien, and Minneh Oyas served as presenters for the night’s performances; seven countries were represented. Hawai‘i was the first to start off the show, performing “O Hawai‘i Ku‘u Kulaiwi” by the group Halau I Ka Leo Ola O Na Mamo.

Tai Chi performance

France was the second country on the list, represented by the group French a la Carte. They performed a humorous and political skit called “Vie la Resemblance.” Next was China, where Nicole Smith, originally from Singapore, performed “Contemporary Freestyle Tai Chi.”

The Bayanihan Club is very popular at UH Hilo. Representing the Philippines, they performed “Traditional Dances of the Philippines.” Kendrick Dalmacio, a pre-pharmacy student from the Philippines performed and shares his experiences.

“My favorite part about performing at international nights was finally getting to see all of our dances come together after about two to three weeks of practice. Everyone in the club has been working hard to prepare for our performance, and I am proud of how far we have come. I have been doing these dances since the school year started. I joined Bayanihan because I was originally an officer of the Pinoy Club in high school and I wanted to learn more about how our culture is being celebrated here.”

After intermission, the next countries represented were Japan where Taishoji Taiko performed “Seishunjidai.” Yap, Federated States of Micronesia or Wa′ab traditionally refers to an island located in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, a part of the FSM. The Wa’ab student organization performed “Gamel”, a Yapese Bamboo Dance.

The last country to be represented for Feb. 10’s performances was Samoa. The Tupulaga O Samoa Mo A Taeao performed “O lupe sa vao eseese, a ua fuifui fa’atasi” (“No matter where you’re from, Samoa will always be united as one”).

The performances on Saturday, Feb.11, were presented by emcees Miski Hirayama and Helio Miguel Arcanjo Oliveira de Araujo.

The Republic of Kiribati was represented by the Big Island Kiribati Club. Next was an exciting “Hawaii Irish Dance,” performed by the Spirit of Ireland. Hawaii Irish Dance is a diverse group of students, professionals, and friends, brought together by a love of Irish dance, music, and culture. They are based in Honolulu, where there is a thriving Irish community who lend their support and enthusiasm.

Next on stage was the Kosrae Hilo Organization representing the Federated States of Micronesia performing “Green Hills and Sra Lo Tol.”

In a nod to the Subcontinent, dances by Big Island Desi wowed with their “Indian Fusion Dance.” Sabena Siddiqui, a marine science major, explains her experience with International Nights.

“I started dancing as a workout and when I moved to the island about two years ago, I came from the mainland and started missing my culture. I’m used to Indians being everywhere but they’re not here in Hilo. I’m from Indiana but I was born in India. I’m used to being around my siblings and the Indian community back on the mainland. So, I started to find other Indians on Island and that’s how I met Deepa, the one with the fire performance. She’s amazing. She’s a choreographer and was doing a Bollywood workout class so I started doing that last year. I’ve never intended to perform because I’ve never been on the stage before as a science kid. Then she asked us who wants to do what performances and I got roped into it so that’s how it started. This experience was very nerve racking but also fun. I attended the event last year just to see it. I was so inspired seeing the different groups and different cultures. A lot of them, especially Samoa are so good at being enthusiastic and having so much fun. I love how fun the event is.”

After intermission, the Chuukese Student Association represented Chuuk of the FSM. Next, the Ngelekel Bela Club represented the Republic of Palau. The United States was represented by the group Inspiring New Talent, also known as INT. They performed a very entertaining dance called “Two Worlds.” Boston native Sammi Waldsmith, an exchange student studying environmental science, explains her experience.

“I have been dancing for about 17 years. I grew up in a dance family but I never really danced in college until I got here. As a junior at a new school I didn’t know anybody at first, and my roommate Kiana is a choreographer for our dance team. She didn’t know that I danced so it was a great bonding experience for us. We’ve only been rehearsing this routine for a little less than a month but it hasn’t been a challenge because the choreographers at INT knew exactly what they wanted and how to execute it. It was more of just being patient and listening and just going for it. My favorite part is when everyone is backstage and you’re really trying to hype yourself and each other up and you can just feel the love and then you get through the performance and you're like ‘wait, did we just do that?’ Also, I love to see how excited the audience is. I’ve been pretty performance trained my whole life but I still get the adrenaline once I’m on stage.”

Men dancing