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‘Love’ will be in the air at International Fiesta

International fiesta rehersal

The storyline for the Japan Student Association's International Fiesta performance is the traditional love triangle. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

By STEPHANIE CHIAW

Published June 19, 2014

Walk through the chilly hallways of the Natural Sciences Complex any night this week and you’ll hear the beat of drums and blaring, yet unfamiliar music.

Glance into the slightly opened doors of classrooms and you’ll see students dressed in ethnic costumes, dancing away.

International Fiesta is only a few days away, and rehearsals are in full swing.

“We started three months ago. We meet six days a week, about two to four hours each night. It gets more intensive during the last two weeks,” said Aline Kobayashi, a junior in the School of Management and choreographer for the Japan Student Association’s (JSA) International Fiesta team.

One of the year’s most anticipated events for UB’s international students, International Fiesta will take place Feb. 22 in the Center for the Arts, North Campus. The event, which is free of charge and open to the public, will start at 7.30 p.m.

International fiesta rehersal

The princess and her servants dance with their fans. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

“International fiesta is a dance competition between the international clubs,” said Theresa Cervantes, international council coordinator of the Student Association and the organizer of International Fiesta.

“The competition and exhibition acts provide a platform to showcase the beauty of their culture, and it promotes diversity and awareness.”

This year’s theme for International Fiesta is love. The competing acts will be judged on three elements: technical, cultural and creativity.

The JSA’s team is the smallest and one of the most hardworking groups competing in the fiesta. JSA started working on the competition in September, and the actual team has been in action since November.

The group will be focusing its performance this year on a love story.

“It’s difficult to show the traditional Japanese culture just by dancing, so we decided to do a storyline,” Kobayashi told the UB Reporter during a rehearsal earlier this week. “We looked up music for each scene that we wanted. We begin by introducing the princess and her servants, dancing with the fans.”

The story is that of the traditional love triangle: The samurai meets the princess and falls in love with her. But the princess is in love with the poor peasant. The powerful and jealous samurai tears the lovebirds apart, as does society, which forbids men and women from extremely different caste systems to be together.

It isn’t easy expressing such an intense story in the seven minutes each group has for its performance. All three of the main dancers agree that the experience was difficult, and they had to practice every night to perfect every scene.

International Fiesta rehersal

Members of the Japan Student Association's International Fiesta team has been practicing six days a week for three months. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

“It’s really tiring, as we have school in the morning and we come together every evening and practice ends about midnight,” said Jean Zhao, a freshman who plays the role of the princess.

“It’s exhausting. I’m taking six modules this semester. I try to study and complete my homework during break time and leave the evening free for practice,” added Rong Lin, a sophomore double major who’s playing the peasant role.

But what motivates Rong is his desire to be on stage. He said he attended International Fiesta last year and was blown away by the performances. “This year I want in. I want to stand on the stage; I want to show people that I can do this,” he said.

Every aspect of the performance has been covered since preparations for the fiesta began in November—even the fine details of costume making.

“The costume this year, I wanted it to be grand,” said Christina Adelson, a UB alumna who serves as costume designer for JSA.

“It takes a lot of time to research and design the Japanese costume, especially for the princess. It’s very tricky when it comes to movement.

“She needs as much movement as possible, but when I researched what an actual princess in Japan would wear, it’s really confining.

“It’s all about elegance and poise, which you can really convey on stage when they’re dancing,” Adelson said. “So the challenge was to make her look like she’s supposed to be a princess, but also let her move in her outfit.”