Faculty, staff, students showcase different cultures during Diversity Conference performances

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Photo credit: Jessica Jimenez

Sisters, Maddie Fenster '20 and Dani Fenster '23 model traditional clothing from South Korea during the Asian clothing fashion runway.

From musical numbers to dances to fashion shows, this year’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference was filled with multiple performances meant to showcase aspects of culture. On Jan. 29, the Archer community saw these performances that connected with the theme of this year’s conference: Our Complexities, Our Connections.

The first performance was a cello and violin duet by Sabrina Kim (’22) and Camila Blank (’24). Kim and Blank played “Presto,” an Italian classical music piece by Pietro Antonio Locatelli.

“We wanted to get as many girls involved in the opening ceremony as possible because then they’re invested in it and excited and then their friends are excited to see them out there,” Spanish teacher and DEI member Talia Geffen said.

Following the instrumental piece came the Folklorico dance, a traditional Mexican dance performed by senior Angelica Gonzalez and sophomore Anny Rodriguez. Gonzalez and Rodriguez went on stage wearing a traditional dress worn when performing this dance. This specific piece comes from Nayarit, Mexico, and is called “Son de La Negra.”

“We definitely wanted to have a wide representation of all our affinity groups on campus,” senior and DEI Team Member Misha Mehta said. “The rest [of the performances are] kind of formal because it was more like dance company and dance troupe that had dances that related to our diversity goals.”

Students and faculty got to view two additional dances, an African dance and a Bollypop performed by members of Dance Troupe. The African dance was a traditional piece inspired by the fairytale “The Six Swans.” The story is about a princess whose brothers are turned into swans by her evil stepmother. In the piece performed by Dance Troupe, the swans were females, rather than males, and they were saved by the princess. Dance Company’s piece was inspired by the fairytale “Thumbelina,” a story about a woman who wished to have a child and was given one by a fairy but is later stolen by a frog.

Photo credit: Jessica Jimenez
Angelica Gonzalez’22 performs a traditional Mexican dance called Folklorico. The piece she performed along with Anny Rodirguez’22 is called “Son de la Negra.”

“We tried to mix it up a little bit,” Geffen said. “A little dance, a little this and a little that.”

Following the dances came the Asian traditional clothing fashion show. Faculty, staff and students from different grades wore clothes representing their own culture.

[The fashion show] was probably the performance that was most talked about last year. It got the best response and most positive feedback, and so the students let us know that they were excited, they would love to do it again,” Geffen said.

The runway showcased traditional dresses and other clothing items from different countries in Asia, such as India, China, South Korea and Vietnam. While students were able to admire the clothing, they were also able to learn about the meaning behind these pieces of clothing.

“It was really important to us…that they really explained what they were wearing and why,” Geffen said. “It wasn’t just like ‘Oh, look at these cool clothes’ but what country, what, when would someone wear that.”

Lastly, the upper school choir performed a traditional African American spiritual, “Keep Your Lamps,” by Victor C. Johnson, which relates to hope for freedom during times of slavery by using specific biblical passages. The piece pays homage to those who were enslaved and may have used these verses as a code to help escape to the North.

Photo credit: Jessica Jimenez Ms. Patel poses during the traditional Asian clothing fashion runway. In this picture, Ms.Patel is not only modeling her clothing but her traditional jewelry as well.

While some students who wanted to take part in this year’s Diversity Conference were not able to, they were encouraged to showcase their performances in other events taking place this year.

“If students and adults want to see more, we don’t just showcase our diverse talents and culture at Diversity Conference,” Geffen said. “Through our arts programs, there are lots of opportunities to see the different perspectives and cultures that make up our community, so I would encourage people to check out the gallery openings that are coming.”