St. Olaf celebrated its national and cultural diversity through music and dance after two years at the International Night showcase on April 29. The show saw a staggering attendance of over 200 people who came to watch in person — students, alumni, and faculty — and 130 online streams.
Paulina Morera-Quesada ’24, chair of the International Students Organization (ISO), opened the night with a speech recounting the effort that went into organizing the event, and expressing her excitement for the night. The event was themed “Nostalgia Night: Connecting to home, to life, and to others.”
For many years, International Night has provided international students at St. Olaf with an opportunity to not only share their culture with the rest of the St. Olaf community but also connect with home through the performing arts. However, the event was canceled for the last two years due to COVID-19. The pandemic made many people feel a lack of connection with each other and their homes. ISO wanted to “do something to honor this feeling,” as Morera-Quesada said in her speech. “This is a night in which we celebrate the fact that we are here right now and we are together. This is a night where we connect to the nations we call home, and we do so through music and dance. Two years ago this would not have been possible. Tonight is a celebration of our community’s resilience. Let’s celebrate!”
The show featured 12 performances from different parts of the world. The first performance was a modernized version of the Nepali song “Kalo Keshma Reli Mai,” described as nostalgic by one of the performers, Prabesh Paudel ’22. The song was followed by a lively South African Gumboot Dance Performance. One of the performers, Phumelele Mncina ’24, shared the heritage of the dance during the performance — a codified tap devised by miners deprived of conversation in the gold mine tunnels in South Africa, now one of the most popular South African dances. This was followed by six more dance performances from Costa Rica, South Asia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and a K-Pop performance by D-vine dance club. Mary Malou ’23 and Sebastian Pham ’23 did a stunning music performance of Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way” translated into Swahili. It was followed by a Hmong Laotian dance and an Armenian dance performance. St. Olaf Taiko Club’s dynamic “Yamamichi” and “Ouichi” concluded the performances.
The show was closed by a flagwalk, where many international students walked across the stage holding up flags from their countries and greeted the audience in their native languages. The final segment of the show was a vote of gratitude and appreciation for the graduating international seniors.
“Today is also a night where we celebrate our graduating international seniors. You all have been through a lot — from moving to a whole new country to the majority of your college life being plagued by COVID. The graduating class of 2022 has persevered through so much and we would like to thank you all for being a great role model for the younger classes,” said Paudel in the show’s closing remarks.