On Saturday, the ninth annual International Dance Festival took place at the Collins Center for the Arts with two shows, featuring University of Maine students, alumni and community members.
The festival included individual routines and group dances from countries, including China, India, Brazil and Iran. The dances were varied, from from a rollicking “Remix Latino” to an elegant interpretation of “Vietnam, Our Homeland.”
“We really try to bring a slice of the whole world to UMaine,” Jessica Bishop, academic resource specialist and International Dance Festival coordinator, said of the event.
When describing the event, Bishop, who said this was her eighth year involved with the festival, stressed the importance of the collaborative effort that is required to organize the festival each year.
According to Bishop, the International Dance Festival is the largest international event of the spring semester. Since its modest beginning in 2005, the event has outgrown its original performance space in Minsky Recital Hall, now requiring two shows in the much larger Collins Center in order to meet audience demand.
For its second year, the International Dance Festival benefited Literacy Volunteers of Bangor, a nonprofit organization that connects adults who seek to improve their literacy with volunteer tutors who work with them to achieve their goals. Mary Marin Lyon, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the Bangor organization maintains affiliations with the Office of International Programs and the Intensive English Institute in order to connect volunteers on campus with students seeking literacy assistance.
“International students get to learn the language, while [volunteers] get to learn about the world,” Lyon said.
Literacy Volunteers of Bangor members were on hand to usher and collect donations during the event.
In addition, local author and businesswoman Christine Chou was available to sign copies of her self-published book, “A Chinese Woman’s Thoughts on American Culture.” Proceeds from the book were to benefit Literacy Volunteers of Bangor.
“[Dancing] is like a language,” said Jie Chen, a graduate entomology student and native of China. “The stories told in the dance are my favorite part.”
Chen participated in two performances: The first was a traditional dance, performed with eight others, that originated from one of China’s 55 minority groups, and the second performance was a duet that described two sisters lost in the desert with only one canteen of water.
“I always look forward to [the festival]” Chen said, adding that this is her third year participating. “I try to do something different every year.”
For Evan Chase, a master’s student in the Department of Education and UMaine undergraduate alumnus, this was his fourth year participating in the festival. Chase performed with the Capoeira Club, playing the traditional, one-stringed instrument called a berimba while other club members played rounds of capoeira, a mixture of dance and martial art techniques.
“It’s a conversation of movements,” Chase said when asked to describe the nature of capoeira.
The movements are not choreographed beforehand: Players improvise, based on the tempo provided by group musicians who play instruments and sing.
“It’s all capoeira — it just kind of naturally happens,” said Chase.
Capoeira has its roots in Brazil, where it was illegal until a capoeira master convinced the government to lift the ban on the sport in the 1930s. Since that time, capoeira has spread across the globe.
“You play a game of capoeira, and you’re all equal,” Chase said, describing the appeal of the sport.
The event was sponsored by the Office of International Programs, the International Student Association, Student Government, Division of Student Affairs, the Cultural Affairs/Distinguished Lecture Series and Residents on Campus. Students interested in volunteering for Literacy Volunteers of Bangor should contact Mary Lyon at firstname.lastname@example.org.