Cultural Outreach is a celebration of the diverse and vibrant international student community at Trent University.
Hosted yearly at the Showplace Performance Centre, the student-run show features a number of powerful cultural performances that seek to give international students a platform to share their talent with the wider Peterborough and Trent communities.
Cultural Outreach 2016, The Phantom of the Opera, took place on March 19, and offered two shows at 2p.m. and 7p.m.
An after party that united all international students and featured music from all corners of the world followed the show.
Organized by the Trent International Students Association (TISA), this year’s Cultural Outreach followed the Phantom of the Opera through various regions of the world in his quest to find an act to bring to his theater. However, what he finds is incredible unity and diversity in all acts throughout the show.
Cultural Outreach is the result of months of hard work from both the organizing committee and from performers alike. The organizing committee begins their work in the fall semester: they create and distribute promotional material, work in collaboration with Showplace Performance Centre to learn the ins and outs of backstage management, lighting and sound, and host a series of auditions, tech rehearsals and dress rehearsals throughout the winter semester.
On the day of the show, the organizing committee mans the whole theatre, from lights to onstage props, to photo-ops in the lobby, to ensuring that all performances run smoothly.
For performers, rehearsals also start as soon as the fall semester. Rehearsals include weekly dance practices, learning songs and choreographies, reconnecting with cultural heritage and immersions into other cultures. This year, over 100 performers took the stage at Cultural Outreach.
The diversity in performances and students makes for a vivid backstage scene that encompasses a multitude of languages, traditional clothing and cross-cultural exchanges.
This year, TISA Choir opened the show performing Vuelie, a combination of Saomi yoiking and a Danish Christmas hymn followed by ‘Hope for Resolutions,’ which combined an English cheval chant and a Zulu spiritual song.
The Phantom then travelled to the first region of his trip: Eastern Europe. This section of the show featured a Russian Fold Dance titled ‘Smuglyanka.’
This is a Moldovan folk song that glorifies the female partisans of the Russian Civil War, followed by a combination of traditional dances from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakh and the Caucasus titled ‘Traditional Dances of the Post Soviet States,’ and was performed in collaboration with students from these nations.
The Phantom then made his way to the African continent which saw powerful spoken word performances like the ‘Black Manifesto,’ songs like a reinterpretation of John Legend’s ‘Glory’ and dance performances celebrating Africa’s diversity and roots including a West African Interpretation Dance with drumming and an Tanzanian energetic dance that combined traditional and modern African dances.
Cultural Outreach 2016 also saw Latin American students take the stage with a performance that combined Venezuelan and Cuban folklore dances and a representation of modern day Latin America, featuring Bachata and Salsa, two popular styles of dance in the region.
In addition, a reggae performance titled ‘Summer Loving,’ in which two individuals told a love story through song, set the tone for a Bahamian dance that reflected life in the Bahamas and Caribbean culture.
When the Phantom travels to Asia, he encounters the Japanese fisherman song, ‘Soran Bushi,’ which portrays the life of a fisherman and imitates the ocean’s waves and movements carried out when fishing.
He also witnesses a Joget dance from Vietnam with impeccable synchrony titled ‘Prosperous Vietnam.’
The South Asians Association at Trent (SAAT) closed the show with a performance that began with an Indian classical dance followed by a mash-up of songs from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and finished with a traditional folk dance from the Punjab State that integrated western songs with traditional movements.
Prominent in the show was also a spoken word piece titled The Human Race, which addressed topics of racism and inequality, and called for an inclusive global community.
Performances allowed international students to celebrate their own culture and to immerse themselves in other cultures by participating in dances from different regions of the world.
They give the audience an insight into the talent of the international community and into diverse forms of expression.
Year after year, Cultural Outreach attests to the diversity of Trent’s international student community by providing a platform of expression for international students, a space for cultural exchange both behind the curtain and in the audience, and by celebrating and embracing difference.
Authors Note: Having been a performer, an organizer and an audience member, I would like to personally congratulate all those involved with this year’s show and recognize your hard work and dedication to make Cultural Outreach 2016 yet another amazing statement of the value of multiculturalism.