The room was outlined in a parade of color, as countless flags, in all of their brazen harmony, clung to the walls. If the flags themselves didn’t introduce enough flair to the third annual Global Gala, which occurred on Jan. 29 in Levin Ballroom, the performers themselves most certainly did. Donned in exquisitely patterned clothing, representing Indian, African and Chinese cultures among many others, the performers shot across the stage like fireworks, enamoring the audience. It would appear that the fourth of July had come early this year.
Although the event lacked publicity, the Brandeis International Business School (IBS) sponsored Global Gala was anything but lacking in talent, precision and grace. The celebration of cultures, which involved a smaller student body than MELA and more cultural events of that scale, was actually of a higher quality throughout. The Global Gala’s success was bent on its smaller scale, and the smaller audience reaped the benefits of varied food, sophisticated dance routines and spot on vocal performances.
When the first MCs walked on the stage, it was apparent based on the ease with which they conversed—with each other and with the audience—that this was going to be unlike other campus events. Varun Visawadia and Riddhish Rege broke the ice when one of them made the blunt statement “Two Indians … one stage … so global,” which made audience members let out a bunch of raucous laughter. The ridiculousness of the statement was just right to set the mood of the evening. When the introduction came to a close, as part of IBS tradition, one of the MCs, Kate Goldfield, hit a gong that reverberated its relaxing vibes through the ballroom.
The African dancers, who were clad in wonderfully loose and brightly colored garments, jump started the performance on just the right note. Though the number had only three dancers, it really didn’t matter; the ease with which Bernice Appiah and Vennesa Duodu took the stage made them both obvious leaders who would have easily outshone a group. The choreography, which included moves that exhibited delicate arm movements and interpretive dance, was absolutely breathtaking throughout. What was particularly captivating about this specific performance, which showed rapid changes from one song to the next in a kind of remixed fashion, was the way that the choreography told a story through the most subtle movements.
In another memorable act, husband and wife Eric Chasalow and Barbara Cassidy performed two traditional Irish songs, titled “Bonny Light Horseman” and “The Water is Wide.” The first song, which has its roots in the late 18th century, tells the tragic story of a woman whose lover died in the Napoleonic wars. Cassidy’s high pitched vocals paired with the ever so simple strumming of a guitar generated a lullaby-like tune that had found its comfort in human suffering. This combination of elements resulted in a wholly lamentable mood, though the somewhat happier tone of the second song helped equal out the overwhelming range of emotion.
The Latin dance was full of poise and the kind of intimacy that can only be found in a couple’s dance. Multiple couples lined the stage and were capable of the most saucy and graceful movements. Their synchronicity was so exact as to make it difficult to tell where one partner ended and the other began. In an all-around joyful performance that finished in two parallel lines, with the upbeat popping of the background music setting the stage for the moment, the Latin dance showed audiences a different and somehow more enticing form of dance.
To conclude the celebration of cultures off with a show of elegance, the event finished with a fashion show that represented countries including Vietnam, India, China, Pakistan, South Korea and the Republic of Congo, among many more. Clad in the traditional or most representative clothing of each nation, the fashion show exhibited the most stereotypical outfit that best characterized that culture. Far from a negative statement, these ensembles, when contrasted against each other, showed the range of human experience and culture, each with their own individual clothing style.
The last nation to make its way down the runway was none other than the United States; the suspense built as the audience tried to imagine what outfit was the most “American.” Fittingly, a woman shimmied down the stage wearing a short and incredibly sparkly gown. It looked very much like a disco ball, shining in every and all directions. In a way, that’s a great way of rethinking American culture. More so than anyone else, America sure knows how to shine.