Posted tagged ‘Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’

What Would You Include in a U.S. Culture Night?

April 6, 2008

Last night, I attended and volunteered at my university’s UTSAV 2008, which means “celebration”, presented by Students of the Indian Subcontinent. It was a ton of fun, and very meaningful to me, as I consider culture nights and festivals one of most valuable cultural products in the world. Eating the four dishes and watching the two hours of performances that people from a specific culture have chosen as most important to showcase is so incredibly educational and breaks down stereotypes. This kind of event brings us closer to the ideal of world peace.

UTSAV made me think, if I was in another country and in charge of the programming for a U.S. culture night, what would I ideally want to include? Here’s what I’ve come up with, not necessarily in order:

A live instrumental jazz performance
This is one of the many kinds of music native to the U.S., and I think it doesn’t get the attention in today’s pop culture it deserves. No brilliant ideas on which jazz song to perform.

“American Pie” by Don McLean
This is the quintessentially American pop song. I envision someone playing it on piano while singing. Dancers in sixties garb performing choreography could take up most of the stage. If we wanted, we could do an in-depth explanation of the lyrics before the number, but this would take forever, as the song is so deep. You can read the Wikipedia article on the song here.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 50 —A Golden Anniversary Celebration
This dance company’s tagline is “cultural ambassador to the world” with good reason. I’ve seen both Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and their junior company, and they blew me away. This video, which I recently saw at one of AADT’s performances in Seattle, explains not only the significance of the group in dance, but also how strongly the group relates to cultural diversity within the U.S. We might have to translate this into the local language.

Skits on both serious issues and fun information that many people might not know
Unhealthy American diets, including problems with eating disorders and obesity
Varying accents and cultures between different regions within the U.S.
Racial diversity and clashes within America
The increasing income gap

A miniature American Idol
This would include maybe three contestants singing pop songs. The judges would simulate American Idol judges and then the audience could vote (either via cheering or more formally) for their favorite contestant. This would expose our pop music and reality television phenomenon, was well as engage the audience.

A short film
For the Birds (2000) which won best short film at the Academy Awards that year. It doesn’t have any words, which is why it would be good to show people who don’t speak English. Hollywood is the film capital of the world, making it important to include an American film in an U.S. culture night.

A musical theatre number
Which musical would depend on the country the culture night took place in. I know
Chicago was a very popular film in China while I lived there in 2005.

There are so many others I would like to include, such as a cover of “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, a hip-hop dance and/or vocal performance, and an episode of a TV show such as The Simpsons; however, time is always against us.

In terms of food: barbeque! BBQ chicken, garden salad, deviled eggs and another salad such as potato, pasta or fruit would make perfect buffet items, with chocolate milkshakes for dessert. The BBQ could very easily incorporate visual art and/or a slideshow as well.

These programming elements spark suggestions for other events, such as a swing dance or sock hop, movie and TV nights, and American Idol-style competitions. Holidays celebrated especially in the U.S. such as Halloween and Thanksgiving justify special events as well.
How about you? What would you include in a U.S. culture night?