International Showcase takes MU around the world in one night

Nine student groups gave a variety of cultural performances Saturday at Missouri Theatre.
OFFICIAL Dance Crew performs at the International Showcase event Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, hosted at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Mo.

Stotler Lounge served as rehearsal grounds Friday for the annual spring International Showcase, to be hosted by MSA/GPC International Programming Committee on Saturday night at Missouri Theatre. The 3:30 to 10:30 p.m. rehearsals saw groups from the lineup perfecting their performances for the following night with the event’s two chairs Brett Kempker and Yasmine Benchaabane.

“It used to be called the International Night, I changed the name to International Showcase because International Night didn’t really tell you what the event was,” Kempker said. “If you were just to hear the name, it could mean a lot of different things. By using the name showcase, people know it’s a show.”

Boots, coats, scarves, Starbucks beverages and brews lined the outer rim of Stotler Lounge, leaving the center clear for the performers to work out the finite kinks in their choreography. Many of them have been working hard on their performance pieces all semester.

The grueling seven-hour Friday rehearsals and ten-hour Saturday run-through didn’t seem to unnerve the two event chairs.

“I think it’s so worth it,” Benchaabane said. “I think celebrating the different cultures of the world and everyone around us, I think it’s so important, such a great part of life.”

The International Showcase included nine performances by Mizzou Masti, Saudi Student Association, Indonesian Student Association, Persian Traditional Music Ensemble, Cultural Association of India, Dream Catchers, “Official” Dance Crew, Chinese Performing Arts Group and South Asian Student Association.

Kempker points out a lot of the groups on the roster were at the International Student Welcome Party, one of the International Programming Committee’s biggest events, and that’s where the ball gets rolling for the International Showcase.

“We send out applications to be in the show, and tech forms, at the beginning of the semester,” Kempker said. “We try to reach as many groups as we can. And we don’t have auditions or anything, because we normally have right around the same amount of groups that want to do it as we want to do. So this year we have nine, which is great.”

IPC is partnered with the Missouri International Student Council and works with many international student organizations to prepare for this event.

“It definitely is a lot of work and it can get stressful at times, but in the end it’s a fun event and all of our events bring together a lot of different people,” Benchaabane said. “And it gives international students a cool way to show off their culture, which I think is really important here.”

The event intends to be an evening of cultural enrichment, education and acceptance, by sharing and celebrating different cultures.

“In the whole experience of being an international student, it’s important to become assimilated to the culture of the country that you’re in,” Benchaabane said. “But it’s also important to share your own culture.”

But the event isn’t limited to only international students, Benchaabane said. Several of the performers in the different international organizations were born and raised in the U.S., but chose to participate and embrace either their heritage or the heritage and culture of others in the showcase.

At the Friday rehearsals, a group of girls from Mizzou Masti, MU’s Bollywood dance team, run through their choreography, a dance to Bollywood song “Yaar Naa Miley.”

Four of the girls from the performance all excitedly said they’ve been working on their choreography all semester, and jokingly added that it feels like it’s been years of preparation.

Some of the girls share how they got involved and recruited for their showcase numbers in a variety of very different ways, but it’s easy to see that all the hard work and practices has bonded the dancers. They have a supportive, almost familial closeness.

“They (were) open to do whatever they like: fashion, music, performances, dance,” Kempker said.

Some performers showcased more traditional cultural pieces, while others explored more modern interpretations of embracing culture.

“It depends,” Kempker said. “(SASA) is doing a dance to ‘Flawless’ by Beyoncé, so obviously that’s not a traditional dance or anything, but we open it up to whatever they want to. We do have some more traditional performances. The Chinese Performing Arts group will do something more traditional; they come to the showcase every year and have really elaborate costumes. So it just depends, there aren’t very many rules on it.”

The Chinese Performing Arts Group gave three traditional performances — ‘Flying Kite,’ where dancers in bright costumes used pink and blue fans to replicate the effect of birds or butterfly wings; ‘Spring Rain,’ a pipa (Chinese lute) solo that mimicked the sounds of March rain; and ‘Happy Minority Village,’ featuring red, green, black and yellow costumes with detailed matching head pieces.

“Official” Dance Crew gave a hip hop dance medley, blending reggae, pop, hip hop and rap.

SASA did a fashion show, which was a mix of South Asian, Arabic and modern attire.

The Cultural Association of India shared a three part musical tribute to great Indian love stories, described by the voice over as “a bouquet of performances” through two songs by a blend of flute, guitar and violin paired with sweet melancholy singing.

The Missouri Indonesian Student Association performed an instrumental guitar musical celebrating the diversity within Indonesia through a variety of folk songs from the nation’s different islands. The trio, one black acoustic guitar and two white electric guitars, served as international tour guides in this musical adventure.

Traditional Persian Music Ensemble shared vibrant Persian culture with a quartet featuring expertly finessed instruments and enchanting singing.

Before the showcase, Kempker said he hoped the celebration of culture would be not only entertaining but educational for the audience, a way to travel across the world in much fewer than eighty days.

“I mean we’re not very often in China, going to shows there,” he said. “And so for them to bring a taste of that to Columbia, Missouri, that’s really cool.”

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