Celebrating cultural traditions

Marina Gaytan / The Collegian Online

Sunday marked the 26th anniversary of International Culture Night at California State University, Fresno. The event was organized by the Association for the Promotion of International Culture (APIC), a student organization that encourages diversity and cultural awareness.

APIC president Tryphena Persis, a Fresno State graduate student from India, was the coordinator for the event. Persis said that International Culture Night is the association’s largest event of the year and takes months of planning and preparation.

This year, the event was held during International Education Week, according to Persis. The event showcased 12 performances representing nine countries, including Africa, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico and Polynesia.

The Indian Student Club finished off the evening with three dances. The club’s performance was met with shouts and cheers from the nearly 800 attendees inside the Satellite Student Union.

For graduate student, Aman Mehra, dancing in front of an audience was a whole new experience.

“It was my first time doing it,” Mehra said. “It was pretty fun actually. I had no clue that I was going to enjoy it that much on the stage.”

India celebrates numerous festivals throughout the year with dancing, and each region has its own style of celebration. Much importance is placed on preserving the culture, Mehra explained, and dancing is a big part of Indian life.

“There’s something that moves us when we talk about our culture, so we really want to show people what India is made of and what kind of culture we have,” he said. “Events like International Culture Night are the perfect events to showcase Indian culture.”

The club presented three dances, each related to Indian festivals and celebrations. The first dance, the Gondal, is performed at joyous occasions like weddings and births.

“Whenever there’s a marriage, [Indians] dance. They would dance their legs off,” Mehra said.

Marina Gaytan / The Collegian Online

The second dance of the evening was the Garba, traditionally performed during the nine day festival, Dusshera. Mehra was one of 10 dancers to perform the Garba, which was set to the music from a famous Bollywood film “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.”

The final number, Holi dance, is traditionally performed during the festival of colors.

Last year the club performed dances native to northern India. This year they wanted to present something new and different, Mehra said. Many of the club members come from southern India, and both the Gondal and Holi dance showcased regional styles from southern India, Mehra said.

Rehearsals began in September with practices held three days a week, according to Mehra. During the final week leading up to the event, the club practiced daily.

“It was hard,” Mehra said, “Especially the last week, [choreographers] pushed us so hard that I was dead tired every single night.”

According to Mehra, the highlight of the evening was when all 21 dancers ended the performance together with the Holi dance and received a rousing applause from the audience.

Graduate student, Aditi Prashar was one of five choreographers that helped to arrange the dances. Prashar learned to dance at a very young age. Apart from choreographing, she also danced in both the Garba and the Holi in Sunday’s performance.

Both Prashar and Mehra are from India and came to Fresno State to pursue a master’s degree in biotechnology.

Prashar said she would love to be part of International Culture Night again if she is still at Fresno State next year.

“I’m very happy that it went really well,” Prashar said. “I know there are a lot of Indian students [at Fresno State], so we do want to present our culture to everybody here.”

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