Authenticity of International Days dances questioned

By Aleks Pavlovic

International Days at Lane have always been about showing off a culture’s flavor through traditional dances, food, and clothing. However, this year many clubs decided to include a modern twist in their performance, a twist that some found offensive or unnecessary.

Clubs strived to keep students and staff enthused by wearing prominent costumes and delivering upbeat performances, but as one club competed with another for audience approval, what is popular seemed to linger closely behind what is traditional.

“Sticking with traditions isn’t always the “cool” way to go,” said Tina El Gamal, Div. 162. “I’ve heard a few club presidents joke around about other clubs being bad even though their routines actually stick to tradition. I know some clubs have dynamic, enthusiastic dances, but you have to keep in mind that the goal we need to reach is to follow tradition, not to compete for popularity.”

This year’s International Days’ performances combined traditional dances with contemporary techniques.

“A club needs to combine their traditional and modern techniques together to make it work,” said El Gamal. “Indian Club is able to take ideas from Bollywood, but other clubs like Ukrainian Club did it without an advantage. Their dance was traditional but it was fun and unique too. We’re supposed to be proud of the groups we’re representing and represent them properly as unique parts of our world.”

More attention was brought upon clubs such as French and Middle Eastern, who some considered to be under the category of “offensive.”

“[I found French Club offensive] and I’m not even French,” said Nathan Alvarado, Div. 035. “What I found offensive was their sheer lack of any knowledge of French culture. There are three French teachers at Lane, one of whom is a native of France, and it doesn’t seem as if any of them were consulted about how the dance should be done, or what French dancing even is.”

During rehearsal, members of the administration found French Club’s dance inappropriate. Club members were told they must change their routine in order to perform.

“We had to change our dance the day before,” said French Club member Kristen Hal, Div. 174. “There was no time! Sure, it could’ve been more theatrical, I definitely understand, but with the time crunch we were limited.”

Club member Alvaro Lopez, Div. 040, agreed with Hal concerning the lack of traditions in the dance.

“When I researched French dancing, I found a lot of dances our school would consider sexual and inappropriate,” said Lopez. “I feel bad talking smack but our club had trouble finding a traditional dance suitable for school.”

Kailie Stevens, Div. 181, was offended by the dance presented by Middle Eastern Club.

“When talking about offensive dances, I think that Middle Eastern Club did not fully embrace the more traditional, less sexy parts of Middle Eastern dancing,” said Stevens. “They focused on belly dancing and hip shaking, and I’m sure that there’s a lot more to it than that.”

Most of the movements in belly dancing involve isolating different parts of the body (hips, shoulders, chest, stomach etc). In most belly dance styles, the focus is on the hip and pelvic area.

“It’s supposed to be very smooth and very graceful, without the popping of hips and especially of the shoulders,” said Mary Aldugom, Div. 168, who is of Assyrian decent. “Last year, they started their dance by crawling on the floor. Traditionally, we definitely don’t crawl on floors.”

President of Middle Eastern Club Shaylnn Shower, Div. 039, was aware that some believed the dance was provocative.

“Our dance involves many fast paced, intricate hip and belly movements, which some may consider sexual,” said Shower. “I watched a large number of dance videos and put a lot of effort into making everything school-appropriate and easy to grasp. I’m proud of my club!”

Some questioned the authenticity of Italian Club’s “fist pump.” The choreographers of the Italian Club dance originally planned on including Jersey Shore’s most widely known dance move into the routine.

“If other clubs include the fist pump, it’s funny,” said sponsor of Italian club, Ms. Paganelli. “But if our club does it then we’re associating the fist pump with the country itself. Little things like this should be dispelled, not encouraged.”

Italian Club was forced to remove it from the dance after the rehearsal, where Paganelli warned the members that they would each be suspended for 10 days if they went through with the dance move.

“Most students aren’t focused on maintaining the club’s ethnic identity,” said Paganelli. “I would really like to see everything get back to being as traditional as possible.”

With disapproving opinions aside, students continued to flaunt their performance skills while representing their countries with pride. Based on the level of applause, it was clear that each club delivered their best.