On Friday, April 7, was the 47th annual Eve of Nations event put on by the International Advisory Committee, with the help of all the International Student Organizations on campus. I was especially excited to go because my friend, Omar Shendi, is the president this year.
The event is always spectacular. Lot of different clubs and cultures come together and showcase their heritage through a wide range of creative expression. There were groups that preferred to introduce the audience to traditional songs and dances; there were some that chose to excite the audience with contemporary music from their homelands; and some promoted cultural acceptance and inclusion by performing using songs with a mixture of cultural inspiration.
There were also guest performances by groups that were not necessarily student organizations but who’s culture and traditions were undoubtedly deserving of acknowledgement and applause. My favorite of these guest performances was the Native American dances. It was strictly traditional, with a man to one side of the stage beating a drum and singing into a microphone. Three dancers in three different examples of traditional attire each had their turn to dance. Each dance was progressively more energetic and each costume more elaborate, until the third dancer, dressed in very brightly colored feathers and a beautiful, elaborate headdress was whirling around the stage with such fervor and precision that I was amazed at his skill.
The crowd favorite was an Indian dance crew that included more contemporary Bollywood music that drew on other artists influence as well, including Beyonce.
After the guest performances, the competition portion of the event began. Every group had a different energy and different flavor, and this diversity of performance kept me, and I suspect the rest of the audience, excited about what to expect next. There was a traditional ribbon dance from the Chinese student group, a skit and energized dance from the Angolan student association, and a stunning multi-group, moving-part performance from the Indian student group. I loved the grace and beauty of the Chinese student association’s dance. It was beautiful, and though I’d heard of traditional Chinese ribbon dancing, I’d never actually seen a performance.
The Angolan Student Association was amusing and it looked inviting. The students were jumping and dancing and their energy was contagious, and made me want to join them on stage.
The Indian students ended up winning the evening, and it was well-deserved. They had several sets of dancers and music selections, a great costumes that wowed the audience. But every group looked like they were having fun.
I think that it is noteworthy to talk about the audience of the Eve of Nations. It’s usually a little small for the venue, but that doesn’t matter because the people who are in the audience are what’s important. It’s usually made up of family members of the international students performing and OU students. Both family and friends cheered equally for the performers, and it really is an inclusive event.
At the end of the event, Omar got up to give his speech. I could tell he was nervous, but he did a great job of summarizing the feel of the event and the OU students who participated in it. In many ways, these international student groups are the only contact some students will have other cultures and traditions. And it is important to note that though it is a little intimidating to be in a new country, the students who participated fearlessly put themselves out there and brought a little cultural diversity to Norman.