A surge of collaboration

This year’s Culture Show brings 16 student groups together

Tonight’s Culture Show features performances from about 180 students.
Tonight’s Culture Show features performances from about 180 students.

Entering its 21st year, Queen’s annual culture show has morphed from a display of African and Caribbean cultures to the University’s largest event celebrating diversity.

“It started … when the African and Caribbean Students’ Association [ACSA] decided to rent a stage to let people know about their cultural backgrounds and then they opened up that space to others,” Culture Show Co-ordinator Ana Lise Herrera, Sci ’10, said. “It’s not just to give people a space to show their culture, but to let other people see what that is. … It’s an expressive and educational forum.”

Herrera and other co-ordinator Irina Badescu, ArtSci ’11, hope this year’s theme, Surge, captures that momentum.

“We wanted to try to pick something that sounds exciting,” Badescu said, adding that it took about two hours for the 20-member planning committee to come up with a word to describe the entire show.

Herrera said the committee did word associations to find appropriate theme names.

“We brought up words like ‘Mayhem’ but the word associations were, like, ‘Havoc’ and ‘Disaster’ and we said no to that because we don’t want that to be associated with the show,” she said.

There are about 180 students participating in Culture Show from more than 16 student groups.

Many students are involved in more than one act, which means there’s a lot of fusion among the performances, Herrera said.

There will be an act featuring classical Indian dancers and breakdancers, she said.

“You can see the different styles but you really pick up on how they’re so similar at the same time,” she said. “It’s a great message of unity.”

Herrera said she thinks the show is a good opportunity for students to expose themselves to forms of art they don’t usually see at Queen’s.

“You have the chance to take what you want from it,” she said.

“Maybe you’ll find a new interest,” Badescu added.

Opening act Keepin’ It Classy hopes to highlight the connections between hip-hop and classical music, keyboardist Amanda Chan said.

“What we’re trying to do is make classical music more intelligible for a general audience,” she said, adding that the group is performing an ensemble piece she arranged. “People associate string ensembles with classical music and it’s considered more boring.

“It’s an arrangement of a few popular hip-hop songs along with my original composition,” she said, adding that she originally wrote it for the piano but later extended it for a string ensemble.

“It’s inspired by typical guitar riffs from heavy metal.”

The piece features violin, viola, double bass, keyboard, drums and vocals.

Chan said the arrangement has four recognizable hip-hop songs.

“They’re a surprise,” she said. “But you can say there’s Timbaland.”

Chan, who performed in Culture Show last year in a Chinese/hip-hop fusion dance, said this is her first arrangement for a string ensemble.

“The hardest part for me is you want to always be able to show off a different instrument consistently,” she said. “Each instrument should have their time to shine.”

Chan said Keepin’ It Classy didn’t think they would be in the show, much less the opening act.

“We auditioned as a work in progress and we didn’t have all our musicians, the arrangement wasn’t complete yet, so it was poorly put together,” she said. “But we think the [Culture Show] committee saw the potential that it had and we just feel really grateful to be the first act.”

Chan said she thinks Culture Show is unique because it encourages different cultures to collaborate and experiment with new forms of expression.

“This is probably the one show I actually feel comfortable performing in,” she said. “It’s a great way to showcase different ways of expressing culture that you just don’t see everyday at Queen’s.”
Culture Show plays tonight at 7 p.m. at Duncan McArthur Hall. Tickets $12 for the show, $10 for the after-party at Elixir and $20 for show and the after-party. Tickets are on sale today outside of the JDUC.

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