The Collins Center for the Arts filled with music and rhythm on Saturday, Feb. 15 as dancers from around the world performed in the International Dance Festival. Photo by Will Bickford

On Friday, Feb. 15, the Collins Center for the Arts (CCA) hosted the 16th annual International Dance Festival (IDF) The afternoon show began at 2 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. performance, both with free admission.

Prior to the first act, University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy introduced the IDF and supporters of the showcase, including UMaine’s International Student Association and the Office of International Programs, as well as sponsors who helped bring the performance to fruition. President Ferrini-Mundy then passed the microphone to the two charismatic hosts, Trina Trein and David Valls, who began the performance by recognizing the passion every student in the program. 

The first act of the performance included the representation of eastern and central countries and their cultures, ranging from China to Ethiopia. Beginning with a “Da Yu” (Big Fish) dance from China by Enoch Lin and Byron Winslow, a ribbon was tied between two characters to tell the story of letting go. The dance was emotional and slow, priming the audience for the beauty of the succeeding performances. The act then moved to duets and group numbers such as “South Asian Steps,” representative of both the traditional and modern cultural dances of India and Bangladesh, and “Sibling Rivalry,” a number from the United States which featured two siblings, Owen and Ruby Bean, who battled it out on the dance floor to “Starships” by Nicki Minaj and Star Wars’ “Imperial March.”

The second act focused more on group numbers, opening with a “Vietnamese Fan Dance,” featuring petal-like pink fans, with which the dancers told the story of springtime. A Brazillian group then performed “Capoeira,” showcasing musical instruments and a mixture of dance and martial arts. A solo number, “The Blossoming Moment After the Rain,” by ZhiWei Liu followed, in which the dancer perfectly aligned to the rhythm of the music, appearing to take flight on stage. The second act closed with two group numbers: “From the Daughters of Mama Africa,” from the multinational African group, and “Desi Beats” from the Indian group, which had the audience clapping along to the beat.

IDF started as a student-led dance festival, Sarah Joughnin, the organizer of the event, explained.

“Students start rehearsing [in the] fall semester and get their groups together. Come spring semester, we have a rehearsal every week, [where performers] come in, and show me what their progress is. We do about three of those,” Joughnin said. “This week, we had Thursday and Friday tech and dress rehearsal. They’ve put a lot into it. Some of them have a lot of dance in their culture — dance is part of their tradition, and from a young age, they’re dancing and taking lessons … [though] some people are brand new. There’s a really wide range, and we don’t turn anyone aside — everyone is welcome.” 

Dancers come from many places to both attend and be in these performances, though they do not necessarily have to be of a specific culture to take part in dances from across the world. The IDF plays a special part in cultural education in the local area, allowing the audience and members who take part in the performance to submerge themselves in cultures that they may never see otherwise.

“It’s a really nice change to learn about another culture through dance,” Joughin said. “When you’re an audience member, you’re watching and learning, but when you’re in an Indian dance and from rural Maine, you get to know them a little better.” 

Admission for the IDF is free, easily allowing both students and families to attend, benefitting the local community across a wide range of ages. The IDF is held annually on the third Saturday of February.