A Mosaic of Cultures

Sonia Emmons

It is a rare event that I experience belly dancing, Brazilian drums, Brahms and boys dancing in red sashes all in one sitting. This can only mean one thing: cue the Lawrence Difference!
Last weekend was Lawrence International’s 13th annual Cabaret show, held this year in Stansbury Theatre. For the first time in the show’s teenage existence, there were two performances, one Saturday night and one Sunday afternoon. Cabaret 2008 — Mosaic of Cultures — featured music and dance from many of the 50 countries represented by Lawrence’s 170 international students. These students constitute over 10 percent of the student body, and their presence is never felt more strongly than at Cabaret.
The excitement of Sunday afternoon’s show was somewhat diminished by the sad news of Dave Golub’s death the night before. The Sambistas announced that the show would be dedicated to Dave and the LI board asked that the audience rise for a moment of silence before the show began.
Students sang, danced and modeled international clothing beneath 50 different countries’ flags that hung above the stage. The performers included many American students who happily donned the costumes and learned the dance steps alongside their international comrades.
There were two fashion shows, the first showcasing African and Latin American garb and the second, that of Asia and Europe. The bright colors of the African robes, Indian saris and Japanese kimonos unrolled a stunning carpet for the colors of spring, which have needed more than a little prompting this year.
Much to the audience’s delight, the adorable Russian kiddo from last year’s show made another appearance in her traditional red and white Russian blouse, skirt, hat and boots.
The international dances included Afro-Peruvian, Subcontinental Fusion, a Tibetan duet, a Jamaican dance, a Ghanaian and South African dance celebrating freedom, Dominican Bachata and Merengue, Japanese Dokkoisho, salsa and the aforementioned belly dancing.
A new act on the program was Brazilian Capoeira. A blend of dance, martial arts and game. Capoeira was developed in the sixteenth century as a response to the slave trade. The art form is marked by the dancers’ fluid movements juxtaposed against an ominous, pulsing musical beat.
The music of Cabaret ranged from Johannes Brahms’s Third Sonata for Violin and Piano, to gypsy violin music, to Jamaican steel pans to the Brazilian drums of the Sambistas. The Sambista’s performance was a nice reminder that the talented musical group offers more than a great dance party beat.
Cabaret is a fine showcase of talent and international flavor. Lawrence International President Giang Bui introduced the show as a way “to celebrate life through music, dances, and food from around the world.” The flavorful food came after Sunday’s show in the form of an ethnic dinner at Lucinda’s. Highlights of the dinner were the Indian mango lassi — drinkable mango yogurt — and gulab jamun — fried balls of dough soaked in rose-flavored syrup, known by many simply as “balls of fried dessert.”
Luckily for those who did not attend the dinner, the show itself was saturated in international flavor. The dancers performed wearing vibrant colors, many dancing in front of colorful backgrounds. The costumes were a mosaic of colors that served to whet my palate.
The sounds of Cabaret were also bursting with flavor. The blended music of 14 Jamaican steel pans sounded like sips of tropical fruit juice, a pineapple-mango-papaya-banana-pomegranate-pan blend. Perhaps someone should suggest that the Grill stock this flavor juice. Cabaret 2008 was a colorful and delectable start to Spring.