International students’ homelands were brought to SUNY Plattsburgh’s Giltz Auditorium Saturday night, showing tradition through eccentric performance that transported attendees to a variety of cultures.
This year, Club International held the annual Night of Nations: Homecoming, Your Journey to My Home! Nov. 16 in Hawkins Hall. The program ran from 6 to 8 p.m. featuring two acts, in which performers showcased their talents in front of gold banners and a diverse audience. Witty banter between co-hosts Smit Pujara and James D’Amato led the show through each act.
“People still forget the international community.” Pujara said. “There are different clubs that do their part, but who goes to those events? If there’s an Indian event put on, Indian people would go there. But here, everyone is there. They all get to learn about different cultures.”
Different Flavors of the Caribbean kicked off the show, presenting four different dance forms called Spicy Island Tingz. More than 200 attendees looked on to the performance that transition into Toni and Evans, a dedicated singing arrangement dedicated to immigrants who left their country for a better life and education.
“For us international students, this is like a festival,” Student Association Marketing Director Pujara said. “In a way where we all come together and unite in the fact that we all share the same story of coming to the U.S.; it becomes a world culture.”
Originally from Gujarat, India, cultural performances from groups like The Tiranga United gives Pujara nostalgia for the love he experiences at home. This type of feeling gave Pujara the drive to continue this event this year, after being involved for four years. Now plans the event alongside Club International. In previous years, it was held by the Global Education Office.
Due to costuming backlash within Club Caribbean and explicit music choice, GEO was hesitant to hold the event this year, Pujara said.
“Their outfits— that’s their culture,” Pujara said. “We wanted to make sure the lyrics were filtered because it’s a child friendly event, but we didn’t want to filter their cultures.”
The third performance of the night by the Chinese Association showcased stubbornness, passion and courage pertaining to the youth of China. These songs led into the next set, by the South Asian Student Association, encasing Bhutan, Pakistan and Indian culture.
The sisters of the Miraculous Maulana chapter of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Inc. presented dances from China, Dubai, India, Guinea, the Dominican Republic and St. Lucia shortly after.
“The performances had different cultures and different variations to it,” biomedical science major Denzel Chigosim said.
“But some performances had dances where some of the performers didn’t know the dance all the way. I could look at them and see that they weren’t putting enough energy into it.”
Although, there were other performances that he could feel the passion of the dancers, Chigosim said.
The acts were practiced every Sunday a month before the show from 3 to 8 p.m., giving each group a 20 minute time slot. Planning and reservation booking had started in February during the spring 2019 semester, and Pujara brought together a leadership team by the end of April that included Naomi Tegybelu, Dama Dorji, Lilia, Antonella Angulo, Kelly Byrnes and Kira Paulemon.
Sponsors Club International, Student Association, Student Diversity Board, College Auxiliary Services and the Global Education Office helped Pujara continue to put on the event as a united front. He began to promote it and host auditions alongside the e-board of Club International.
“When I heard GEO wouldn’t be able to do it, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I can’t imagine this campus without Night of Nations.” Smit said. “It was emotional for me, I had to make sure I wanted to do this event even bigger and better. It was a full house.”
One of the biggest events on the campus for international students to unite, students did just that in act two of performances. Mongolian set Airgun Ganabar took the stage, and shortly after, JCAP performed a mix of Japanese beauty and scenery through dancing yellow and blue light sticks.
Theater Production manager Berry Brown and Production Stage Manager Leah Sweeney made sure the stage was ready for this night of culture, as the hosts continued to introduce more performances. The two began to discuss the song “Old Town Road” by Lil’ Nas X and surprised the crowd right before the JCAP performance.
“Music like that is only played at TKE! Period.” Co-Host D’Amato said.
The crowd, filled with laughter, quieted after JCAP began, enthralled by a solo dance “Down by the River” in JEDI’s performance about poverty and injustice within the hardships their ancestors had to face. The set had dancers start in the isles of the auditorium, engaging the audience in an even bigger group dance that led to a red and yellow performance by Tiranga United.
Purple hues and white costuming took over the stage quickly after by V-nation, a performance that left the crowd speechless.
“I felt they were all into it. This was their dance from this homeland,” Chigosim said. “They weren’t doing it to just perform. They were doing it because they enjoy it.”
The set was about Vietnamese beliefs of the worship of Mother Goddesses of Heaven, Forest, Water and Earth. After getting a taste of their culture, the show ended on a tasteful rendition of “Flashlight,” a piano song from the movie “Pitch Perfect,” representing the idea of homecoming. The audience filled with flashlights, waving back and forth in support.
After visiting 70 countries within two hours, attendants watched all the groups do a final bow and the hosts gave Pujara a final send off because he will be graduating at the end of this semester.
“We are going to make a succession plan for the event to ensure this will keep happening,” Pujura said.“I have already prepared several documents to make sure they all know what they’re doing. I’m also devising the roles of each individual to make sure it’s understandable.”
The Night of Nations biggest goal was to unite cultures while educating the student community of these cultures. For years to come, the campus will still be able to experience the eccentric traditional dances and songs first hand.