The campus organization known as MIX (Multicultural Interracial Experience) took over the night in a colorful and vibrant flurry, celebrating multiculturalism and our global community through the power of dance last Thursday at their “Melting Pot Festival.”
This first-annual dance show at Winifred Smith Hall was a fantastic two-hour exposition of seven different culture clubs comprised of 95 talented and dedicated student performers. MIX President and senior dance and art history double major Michelle Maasz, was the show’s artistic director and organized the showcase as a part of her Campus-wide Honors Program senior thesis.
“My initial research question was ‘how does dance unite people?’” noted Maasz. She went on to say that her main inspiration was the passion and distinct characteristics each global culture has toward their craft of traditional dance.
“All of the pieces have their own flair and style. They’re all very distinct, but at the same time, I think that when an audience sees all of the different [dance] forms on one stage at one show, they realize that we all have the same body and we all move and express and connect with movement,” Maasz said.
One of the main things MIX’s members were proud of was the sheer size of this production. “This has never been done before,” said MIX Co-President Donnie Wong. He was happy to see a newly formed presence of solidarity and appreciation for other organizations’ cultural practices and traditions.
“All of the organizations we worked with were enthusiastic and cooperative,” stated assistant stage director Jamie Espiritu, who was in charge of the production’s technical schedule and backstage operations. Performers showed incredible commitment to this event and took part in two four-hour rehearsals on top of their individual practices.
Their commitment was purely out of each organization’s own passion for their respective histories. Maasz praised them, stating “they do it for the love of their culture and for their own family traditions. I’m really grateful for all of their time.” The 80-90-person audience that evening seemed grateful as well; each performance was expertly choreographed and offered a satisfying variety of routines and music selections.
Nayeli Correa, Vice-President of Ballet Folklórico de UCI, showed particular passion toward her organization’s routine. The first part of the performance was a traditional dance called “Sin a Loa,” for which dancers wore wide purple and white skirts with flowing one-shoulder blouses and wide-brimmed hats, representing the coastal region of Mexico. The last part of the routine was called “Jalisco” and showcased five dancers in traditional multi-colored, voluminous dresses to the tune of mariachi music. Since joining Ballet Folklórico, Correa has been able to thoroughly remain in tune to her roots and practice her Spanish with other members — a feat that has allowed her to appreciate her family’s history as well as her American nationality in a delicate balance.
Alison Agustin from the Hawaii Club noted that one of the pieces in their routine was a traditional battle dance called “Haka,” presented by four male performers. This powerful routine was comprised of intense, spirited chanting and rhythmic foot stomping and hand clapping. Agustin noted that this dance is even performed by rugby players in New Zealand before their game to intimidate their contenders. Agustin’s favorite part about this event was that it spread awareness of clubs that many UC Irvine students may not have known about before. All seven organizations will have their own end-of-year showcase later this spring, and the MIX festival offered much-needed exposition.
Another performance group was “MitRaas” of the Indian Sub-continental Club. One member, Parth Jani, described their “Garba/Raas” routine as a modern interpretation of a traditional dance originated in Gujarat, India. Their dance was inspired by a major nine-day religious yearly festival called “Navarti.”
The passion brought on by each cultural organization contributed to the vibrancy of the MIX Melting Pot festival. In a campus full of so many histories and sub-communities, an event that showcases our uniqueness and our commonalities in one place is just what UC Irvine needs.
Missed the show? MIX Melting Pot Festival will also take place at the Samueli Theater of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa at 7 p.m. on April 8 and tickets are free.