By Penny Gilchrist
George Mason University student dance teams representing countries from around the world participated in Mason’s annual International Dance Competition on Thursday, April 16. One of many Mason International Week (iWeek) events, the evening program promised “a trip around the world through food, music and dance, ” attracting several hundred attendees to the Center for the Arts on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.
“The competition is iWeek’s signature event,” said Sonya Henry, one of the event’s organizers, and assistant director for programming with International Programs and Services. “Music, dance, and food are some of the most visible aspects of culture.”
Prior to the performance, dancers and attendees gathered to feast on a variety of international dishes, such as spicy taquitos and savory potato-filled samosas.
The Nepalese Student Organization team, already dressed in their brilliantly colored matching costumes, drew much attention from the reception crowd.
“I’m so proud of my group,” said team captain Samikshya Sapkota. “Many are first-year students who grew up in the United States and never danced these dances before. This competition gave them the opportunity to learn more about their heritage.”
Student Katie Garay, on hand to support the Hispanic Student Association’s team, said she appreciates how the students work so hard on their individual programs and then come together on one night to celebrate diversity.
This spirit of celebration became even more evident once the dance competition began. Members of every team—seated together in the front of the theater once they had performed—joined the audience in cheering loudly for each group of dancers on stage.
“Teams prepare months and months in advance to develop their choreography, fundraise for their costumes, and choose the perfect play list,” Henry said. “But at the end of the day, they participate in the competition not to win the prize, but to share their love and pride for their culture.”
The night culminated with the Indian Student Association taking first place for the fourth year in a row. The fabulously costumed dancers integrated classical, fusion, and hip-hop dancing styles with a taste of Bollywood pageantry for a performance that had audience members dancing in their seats.
Mason’s Irish Dance Club took second place, and the Afghan Student Union came in third.
At least one judge, Shaoxian Yu, director of Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education, found it a close competition.
“It was not easy to decide,” he says. “To me, all of the teams were winners.”
The teams, who competed to win money for their student organizations and a chance to perform at iWeek’s closing ceremony, represented 11 student organizations:
- Afghan Student Union
- Arab Student Association
- Filipino Cultural Association
- GMU Bhangra
- Hispanic Student Association
- Indian Student Association
- Irish Dance Club
- Nepalese Student Organization
- Pakistani Student Association
- South Asian Student Association
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For more photos, visit Mason’s International Dance Competition’s Facebook album.