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'It's about time ...' Culture X

By Jenn Rubin
On April 20, 2004

The Intercultural Center's (ICC) sixth annual Culture X variety show once again celebrated diversity through the visual and performing arts in an explosion of music, movement, and media. Encompassing a wide variety of ethnicities and nationalities, Culture X performers presented flashy dances, insightful skits, entertaining songs, a funky fashion show, humorous comedy routines and even displayed their own self-produced movies. Culture X, referring to the generational moniker, began as an opportunity for all the clubs under the ICC's umbrella to work together in a show that would incorporate each of their unique, cultural backgrounds.

This year's show centered around the concept of time; performers and the audience were asked to explore their own perceptions and uses. A Microsoft Powerpoint presentation with trivia questions about the history of time kept the audience entertained before the show's start.

Levin Ballroom was decorated with mirrors and clocks, keeping with this year's theme. Culture X coordinators Tae Young Jacob Kim '06, Jenn Kim '04, Aaron Schwid '05 and Yanina Seltzer '05 emphasized the show will always remain a celebration of community and of our unique, individual backgrounds.

One of the great aspects of Culture X is the variety of acts and diversity of ethnicities represented. Performances in this year's show ranged from a presentation on the Jewish ritual of Havdalah, which marks the transition from the Shabbath to the rest of the week, to a highly entertaining rap medley, entitled "Lend Me Your Ears" by Jules Jeudy '06 and Glenn Wright '05. Culture X also aims to include forms of entertainment and ideals to which all members of the audience can relate.

Brandon Luk's '06 longing for the past and concern about the future in his poem "That Simple American Life" could have applied to any student in the audience.

You didn't need to identify with any specific culture to appreciate the message and the music in a student/faculty ensemble's rendition of Rent's "Seasons of Love." Improv comedy troupe TBA showed during their two, hilarious games that laughter is universally enjoyable.
For the first time, Culture X also included "The Greatest Fashion Show Ever," featuring designs from the past 50 years and the best models in Waltham. Students and faculty strutted down the lighted runway in themed pairs, such in as a cowboy and an Indian, and Red Sox and Yankees fans.

Most entertaining of all was seeing Assistant Dean of Student Life Alwina Bennett dressed as a 1920s flapper and Assistant Director of Student Activities Mike McKenna in Caribbean garb while shaking maracas.
Additionally, Culture X featured three student-produced films that addressed issues of creating and standing up for one's own identity. The music video "Paperback," featuring animation by Aaron Quint '05 and music by The Loss Revival, explored the idea of time as figures jogged and even morphed through space. Quint, who manages a small, independent music label in New York, built the digital animation for the movie around the music lyrics, which described footsteps on a concrete path.

Seth Bernstein '06 also produced two films for this year's Culture X. "Nice Weather for Ducks . . . And You?" was set to the music of Lemon Jelly, and showed a series of individuals watching Brandeis students around rapidly moving past them in a completely obliviously .
Bernstein's documentary, "The Not-So-Silent Generation: A Ford Hall Story," recounted how the now demolished building was seized by black students shortly after the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King. The Ford Hall takeover was staged in order to force then-President Morris B. Abram to grant greater rights and recognition for black students on campus.

The film, which touched upon the history of race relations at Brandeis, was certainly one of the more powerful moments in the show.
Yet, the skits in Culture X provided the most poignant and thought-provoking displays in the show as they focused on exposing and breaking down racial and ethnic stereotypes. "R.A.W. (Raunchy Asian Women)," composed by New York playwright Diana Son and directed by Janet Kim '06, addressed typical perceptions of Asian females' beauty and sexuality. The four monologues in "R.A.W" gave the audience an insight into issues they face and reminded of unique challenges everyone faces stemming.

Teatro Revolution, a new campus theater group that tackles matters of race, gender and prejudice in their performances, put on a sketch addressing airport security procedures in the post-9/11 world through the eyes of two Brandeis students. While Joe from Wisconsin sailed through security on "American Pride Airlines," receiving a U.S. flag as well as an upgrade to first class, Mohamed from Turkey was held up in security for being Muslim and for possessing a dangerous object-hand lotion. Mohamed traveled through airport security, at each stage being covered with papers by airport travelers bearing derogatory, stereotypical labels such as, "Dirty," "Bad" and "Terrorist."

The audience was even more shocked and appalled when they learned that the skit was actually a real-life account of one of the actress's experiences at an airport in the United States in the last year.
The reflective tone of Culture X was paired with a total party atmosphere. The audience was most into the numerous fantastic, flashy dances of Culture X, which ranged from a "Pka," a traditional Cambodian dance performed by Thu Kiem '06 to the fresh, funky, hip-hop routine "It's Time to Party!!!"

Brandeis Ballroom Dance Team showcased different styles of South American dance, such as the Tango, Cha-Cha and Rumba in their piece "Cambiando el Ritmo." The choreography at points creatively reflected this year's theme, most noticeably when the dancers mimicked the movement of a clock with the Pink Floyd song, "Time."

Many dances mixed past and present styles of music and movement, such as with the hip-hop/reggae routine "Old Skool to New Skool" and Indian- and club-flavored choreography of "South Asian Fusion." B'yachad traced the history of Israeli dancing in their graceful, jovial piece "Notzetzet Shining."

However, it was the final dance and performance of the evening that literally had the crowd on its feet. "Evolution," choreographed Girelle Guzman '06 and Camila Pineiro (TYP), began with traditional Afro-Dominican music and dance and concluded with a hip-hop routine to the Usher hit, "Yeah."

Culture X ended with participants and audience members in Levin dancing and celebrating to Ludacris' "Stand-Up". The festive atmosphere continued with a Culture X after-party in Schwartz where an abundance of tasty, international treats was served, ranging from samosas to cannolis. Dancing in Schwartz continued into the early hours of the morning, showing that anytime is a good time to celebrate diversity and community at Brandeis.

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