Multicultural empowerment at Culture X
On Saturday, I had the privilege of seeing one of the most impressive displays of talent I have witnessed in my time at Brandeis: Culture X. This is an annual event co-sponsored by the Brandeis Intercultural Center and the Gender & Sexuality Center, and it highlights a range of artistic talents from a variety of different countries. There were opportunities for both individual performances and for student-led groups to showcase their talents. This year’s show, titled “One Love: Between the Crossroads,” was coordinated by six students: Janis Li ’21, Cassidy Van Cooten ’20, Kwesi Jones ’21 (who also served as the emcee for the show), Anwesha Ghosh ’18, Winnie Zhao ’20 and Siyu Liang ’18. Many of the performances were dances, and it was astonishing to see the number of different dance styles and the many cultures represented.
There were 20 performances in the show. Opening was an outside group called Afro-Diamonds, a Waltham-based company of young dancers — including some elementary school students — who performed energized dance pieces. The young ensemble performed with impressive coordination and wore beautiful costumes that highlighted the captivating style of African dance. Most of all, it was a joy to see such young dancers taking their artistic style onto a higher stage and truly enjoying every minute.
One of the most empowering performances of the night was a poetry reading written and performed by Angela Mendez ’18, who calls herself “The Baddest Angel.” She read two poems, both of which she performed with intense emotion. The first poem described her experience growing up as the daughter of parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. She spoke Spanish at home, but her public school in New York City only gave her the opportunity to speak English. She gracefully represented the frustrations of struggling to exist in two different worlds at once, as an American and as a ‘Chicana.’ She longed to be able to speak Spanish in school, and to comfortably coexist with her English-speaking peers. In the second poem, she expressed her frustrations about the Americanization of her culture. The most powerful part of this poem was when she pointed out that her given name is not even pronounced the way that most Americans would expect, but actually with the “g” pronounced as an “h” — AN-he-la. This was the Americanization that she seemed the most distressed by, feeling that while her name is the one thing that is inherently hers, even that has been influenced by American culture.
One of the most impressive acts of the night was a solo guitar performance by Eli Kengamana ’19. According to the program, Kengamana was inspired by a drawing from a friend, and he wanted a way to transform that visual emotion into something that people could hear. However, Kengamana did not simply play the strings of the guitar, but also incorporated clapping and drumming movements onto the outer parts of the guitar to add a unique sound to the piece.
The second act kicked off with Kaos Kids, a large hip-hop dance ensemble. The intense music and energetic movements of the piece, performed in wonderful synchronicity by all the dancers, was a great start to the second act. Almost every individual member of the group got a chance to be in the spotlight at least once during the performance.
Following the Kaos Kids were Bethel Adekogbe ’20 and Marcelo Brociner ’18, also known as Bethlehem and Jerome B. The duo debuted their newest song, “Crossroads,” which they wrote alongside a Brandeis alum referred to as “Mack” in the program. Both the lyrics and the performance itself were so advanced that at points I forgot I was watching two of my fellow students performing, instead thinking that I was at a live rap concert of established, professional artists.
Of the many dance acts, my favorite was the Platinum Step Team. In addition to the engaging beats created by their shoes, they used their entire bodies in the dance and truly showed their passion for the dance style.
The show concluded with an impressive performance from Brandeis Bhangra, a group that performs folk-style dances from Punjab, a state in Northern India. Not only did it boast beautiful costumes in all colors of the rainbow that highlighted each individual, but it served as another reminder of how many different cultural styles of dance there are to be experienced at Brandeis alone. This was also the third dance group of the night that specialized in dance originating from India, yet its style was still very distinct from the other Indian dance groups, emphasizing the range of dance styles that can exist within a single culture.
I was awed by every act in Culture X this year. Not only did it highlight the talent of Brandeis students, but it also served to show the individuality of art styles from several different cultures. Most importantly, it emphasized that every individual can make a difference in the world of performing arts if they have the passion.