Written by Stephanie Roloff
The Saint Martin’s International Student Club and Our Name is Panama are just two dance groups of many performing at tomorrow’s Ethnic Celebration at the Saint Martin’s Pavilion. This is a free event targeted towards families and anyone who wants to be exposed to all kinds of culture. The Ethnic Celebration will be going from 10 am to 7 pm on February 2. This big Lacey community event features about 25 different dance performances and food and craft vendors all day long. This is an annual celebration of the community’s diversity. The Saint Martin’s International Club is performing modern and traditional form of Japanese dancing, and Our Name is Panama presenting traditional folkloric dances of Panama.
Diana Soto, long-time Panamanian dancer, will be up with her dance group at 4:15 on Saturday. Soto is in her first year at South Puget Sound Community College, and is doing one of her last performances this Saturday. Her group, Our Name is Panama, will be on stage three in the Worthington Center presenting a fashion show of their different costumes and four different dances.
Of the nine dancers performing on Saturday, their ages range from six to eighteen, making Diana the oldest. Soto is the one who usually teaches everyone the dances. Diana says their group is a lot smaller than last year as dancers get older and schedules get busier, however this makes teaching the dances easier for her.
The dances being performed will be El Punto, DJ Flex, Abanico, and Diablitos. Most of these dances the group has performed many times at various other venues, but Abanico was a new one for the group Soto says.
DJ Flex is the one the group has practiced the most because it is the hardest but Diana says it is also her favorite because it is fun and upbeat and has more modern music than the rest.
El Punto is a duet dance between Diana and another boy in the group. This dance signifies a love story with a slower, more romantic beat.
Diablitos literally means “little devils” in Spanish, and the two boys performing this dance will have colorful masks on that are traditionally worn for big carnivals in Panama.
Abanico, meaning “fan”, is the new dance featuring all girl dancers. Diana says this is a more graceful dance and different from most folkloric Panamanian dances because they are using fans as a prop for the dance.
The Our Name is Panama group has also decided to include a fashion show to their performance to showcase and educate their audience about the little Central American country of Panama. The fashion show will have the different members of the group dressed up in different traditional looks of Panama and explain the significance of each outfit.
Our Name is Panama is open to anyone who wants to join and is not secluded to letting only Panamanians dance. While almost all of the dancers in the group grew up in the Lacey area, Diana says that from their families the dance group has a mix of Panamanian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, African-American, Jamaican, and Filipino.
David Ufland, president of the Saint Martin’s International Club, and Apryle Donato a member of the club, will also both be performing at their school’s pavilion this weekend.
David is a senior at SMU who has been part of the club for four years. His club is performing three different times, with him being in the traditional Soran Bushi Japanese dance at 4:25 on stage two in the pavilion.
Apryle, a freshman, will be in a group of three that are showcasing modern Korean hip-hop dancing at 5:45 on stage three in the Worthington center.
David has gone to the Ethnic Celebration the last couple years with his club, and he says the Soran Bushi performance has now become a tradition. This dance ensemble consists of ten performers, three being American students, and the rest, Japanese exchange students at SMU. The Soran Bushi dance tells the story of a fisherman bringing his fish to the country. Apryle and David said fish are a significant part of Japanese culture because they are such a staple food to the country’s culture.
Apryle taught the dance for the K-POP performance and said “I just wanted to teach hip-hop, and they [the dancers] chose the easiest!” Apryle says the dance is still pretty good even if it’s not the toughest one to learn. The group will be wearing hip hop clothes to match their dancing style.
David said the group made their own costumes for the traditional Japanese dance and they look “shiny and cool” with plenty of glitter. David was excited about the girls getting to wear head bands that he said looked very “karate kid” style. The group will be wearing a “hapi” which like a Kimono. The group personalized their hapi’s with their own name in Japanese writing, called Kanji, on the back of each hapi jacket. Each jacket also has a red sun on the back, just like the one on the nation’s flag.
Soto, Ufland, and Donato all said they joined their groups to learn more about their own heritage and also to be exposed to different ones. Apryle said she joined the club hoping to she would be “expanding horizons” because after growing up in the Lacey area all her life she was “bored of American culture”. David also wanted to learn some other cultures and languages.
Their international club at SMU specifically helps the Japanese exchange students to get comfortable with American culture. The club promotes diversity while exchange students and American students team up to both teach and support each other.
Diana has a lot of fun in Our Name is Panama with teaching and meeting people through performances. She says dancing for audiences is really rewarding because “people get so excited” and she can see how the people “get the joy from it.”
Thanks to Diana Soto, David Ufland, and Apryle Donato for your time!
Also here’s link where I got some of my information of the performance schedule for the festival. Check it out!