ISO Presents: Rhythm Nations

Sarah Robbins '17

Assistant Features Editor

Smith College’s International Students Organization put on its annual Rhythm Nations event last Saturday, March 7, representing 24 different countries in Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. The show included 18 different dance, song and poetry recitation performances.

As the event began, John M. Greene Hall was about two-thirds full, and the crowd was buzzing. The room was dimly lit, with a small orange banner hovering above the stage with the words “Rhythm Nations” on it. Spotlights shone on the stage, and two emcees came out to introduce themselves. After their introductions, dozens of international Smithies with flags from countries all over the world walked onto the stage and stood in a line, waving their colorful flags.

Dozens of countries were represented, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Taiwan and Palestine. Each student wore clothes representing their country, such as batik patterns, kimonos and traditional gowns. One of the emcees, a senior reminiscing about her time at Smith, said, “There are over 37 countries represented on campus in terms of citizenship, and this is something I will miss about Smith.”

The first performance of the night was a Korean dance called Flower-Salphur. Six women took the stage, wearing pink and white dresses that puffed out from the bust and skimmed the floor. Each held a bouquet in front of her, twirling or angling it as they danced.

The biggest performances were dance pieces, like the Smith K-pop Dance Crew, Asian Fusion, African Fusion and SASCA African Dance Queens. Smith K-pop Dance Crew performed to a variety of songs, beginning with the whole diverse group of over 30 performers on stage and then paring down in smaller subgroups. The women danced to Korean pop hits and wore baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts tied around waists or hung over shoulders. One group garnered enormous applause as one of the girls ran over another girl’s kneeling back.

Maliha Rahim ’17, one of the members of SKDC, said “It’s a really fun way to show different cultures and get to examine things you might not have seen before…As someone who’s grown up in many cultures, it was fun to get to see people, not just concentrated in Asia, but all over.”

Next came an Ethiopian dance, where one of the performers took the mic to say a few words about the dance’s significance. She described the piece as “representing a day [when] Ethiopia celebrates victory over Italian settlers.” She added that “it marks the beginning of the end of colonization not just in Africa but all over the world.” After cheers and applause from the audience, the dancers began. Five women in flowing white dresses with a green trim danced in a circle, and three men and one woman came behind them and acted as partners. The women clapped and jumped onstage to lively, fast-tempo music.

Srabasti Sarker ’17, also stated her personal connection to her performance, a Bengali folk song. She said “I’m glad to sing a song from a rural setting, as a tribute to those farmers who work day and night to feed us, and for whom I am here today.” She wore a red sari and sang slowly, filling the room with her quiet voice.

Smith acapella group Groove was also present in their usual white and black. They followed a traditional lullaby, which one member had had sung to her as a child, with a medley of Mumford & Sons songs.

After the performances ended, Rhythm Nations finished with a fashion show, where women from each performance strutted across the stage in traditional attire from their own country. One woman walked across in a red sari with gold designs, and another wore a salwar kameez, commonly worn in South Asia by both men and women. There were also dresses native to Egypt, Kenya and India. As the show came to a close, the audience poured into the hall, and the performers walked out to mingle with them, still wearing their representative outfits.