February 20, 2006 | Myrna Anderson
Traditionally Rangeela, an international variety show at Calvin College, celebrates the songs, dances, costumes and dramas of the many cultures that make Calvin home.
This year, Rangeela, to be held at 8 pm on Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25, will celebrate the ways the many cultures come together with a show aptly named “Fusion.” Tickets for the performance are $5 and available at the Calvin Box Office. Tickets for the Rangeela dress rehearsal, to be held at 8 pm on Thursday, February 23, cost $2.
Says senior Elikplimi (Eli) Agbenorku, the show's co-director: "We’re trying as much as possible to fuse different cultures. The theme came out of the international students, who are very much a community here, wanting to show how much they’re learning from each other and how much they’re interacting here."
So, while typical Rangeela programs in the past ran through a slate of time-honored dances from Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia (with a few skits thrown in) the acts in this year’s show combine the artistic expressions of several countries.
One example is a dance piece, supported by drumming from Calvin's drum group Sankofa, which combines Native American and West African moves.
Another is a Latin number that pulls together influences like salsa, meringue and reggaetone (Latin rap) from several South American countries.
And Dutch and French travelers connect in a skit about Europe!
“What those two cultures have in common is that they both love cheese," Agbenorku says cryptically.
Others among the 14 acts in the show demonstrate another type of fusion, that of traditional cultures with contemporary and Western influences.
One dance shows how popular music has affected the Nigerian and west African cultures decade by decade from the 1960s until now.
“It’s pretty traditional," Agbenorku says, "but it’s something that was created in the 20th century. It starts out with a lot more traditional influence and ends with a lot more Western influence."
And the Japanese So-ran Bushi, based on a fisherman’s chant, has also been modernized.
“It’s more like a yell,” explains junior Yeong Lim, Agbenorku’s co-director and the person responsible for the administrative end of Rangeela. "They made that into a dance. It has a traditional style-with an electric guitar. It has a lot of motion, jumping up and down, flips and cartwheels."
Rangeela does retain a few traditional elements, according to the directors.
Representing China, one artist will play a Zheng, a stringed instrument about eight-feet long and said to have been invented during the Ching Dynasty. Likewise, the Philippine and Indonesian dances are established forms.
But the directors are sold on this year’s theme. They are intent to show that in the age of globalization, culture is not a static thing.
“The world is moving closer and closer together," Agbenorku says. “Culture is evolving. People see what’s out there and decide if they want it or not. People are coming together more and more and they're learning from each other more and more."
The co-directors are well-suited to run a show with a fusion theme.
Agbenorku, though Ghanian, was born in the Ukraine and grew up all over Europe, mainly Poland. An economics and math major at Calvin, he speaks Polish, French, Russian and three Ghanian dialects in addition to English.
Lim, though Korean, was born in Japan and lived there and in Korea before his family moved to the U.S. He majors in communications oral rhetoric and Japanese.
Ultimately, however, Fusion will be an expression of Calvin's international student community, the pair says.
"Especially at Calvin, international students as a community learn a lot about each other, about each other’s food, languages, relationships, religion, cultural practices," says Agbenorku. "So we want people to see that. We’re not merely here to get an education from an American school. We’re also getting a liberal arts education from each other in a lot of respects."
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