Cultural Collision brings performers of all creeds together

By Gillian Jakab, Community & Culture Editor
Published January 22, 2014

Collision. From a mosh pit to the particle accelerator at CERN, collision is among the most powerful creative forces in the world.

Cultural Collision

Thursday at 7 p.m.
Mendelssohn Theatre
Tickets available at the door for $7

The University is home to students from over 100 nations, and even more distinct cultures, which has spawned an impressive array of performing groups representing their heritages. But how can we check out this cross-border breadth without it becoming a full time job? There needs to be a little unifying force.

School of Education Junior Julie Emra, with a group of her friends, started the campus organization Cultural Collision this past fall to try to bring the University’s international artists within striking distance of one another.

“We always saw an absence on this campus of representation of many cultures at one performance,” said Emra, who is also a member of the Indian-American Student Association.

There’s Dance Mix, which includes a variety of student performance groups, but its programming doesn’t have a focus on international or ethnic diversity.

“I wanted something that celebrated the cultures, and celebrated the ways people reach back to their roots,” Emra said. “I think (music and dance) can be the best ways to experience another culture. We can talk about it, and that’s also really important, but here you’re seeing these things that are so engrained, from so far back — like the Malaysian Students Association’s Lion Dance.”

Thursday’s Cultural Collision presents work from K-Motion, Kol HaKavod, the Malaysian Students Association, the Native American Student Association, rXn, The Filipino American Student Association, the Macedonian-American Students Association, Maize Mirchi, Revolution and the Amala Dancers. Proceeds from the performance will go to She’s the First, a program that supports education for girls around the world.

Some students may not know of these cultural groups, or feel out of place going to a performance if they don’t have a personal connection to it. Cultural Collision wants to make them accessible for easy sampling.

“It can be kind of like a sneak peak of all the upcoming shows,” said Emra. “You’ll have a list of all the dates; we advertise for the cultural organizations. A lot of people on this campus, if they’re not involved in a cultural organization, are not very aware of how involved other people are. It also sometimes separates a lot of cultures, and I really want to encourage getting to know each other. All of these performers are really passionate about their roots and what they’re doing — their expression.”

The show has no guidelines. Performances can be anywhere on the musical or movement arts spectrum. Members of Revolution, a Chinese yo-yo group, balance and toss their yo-yos to music in rhythm, while executing their own turns and jumps.

“I didn’t want to force anything on anyone,” said Emra. “It’s a show to express yourself culturally and if you’re going to express yourself through Korean pop music instead of like traditional Korean fan dance or something then that’s your choice, it’s just as representative of your culture.”

But Cultural Collision’s mission of slamming these groups together will likely result in more than just a lineup of distinct performances. You don’t have to be an astrophysics major to know that if you collide lots of matter with enough energy, in close enough proximity, you can get sufficient creative force to bang out a universe.