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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Traditions to Shine in ISO Spectrum Show

For 19 years, the International Students’ Organization (ISO) has organized their seminal yearly event, a wildly popular celebration of global cultures through music, dance and poetry. This year’s Saturday, Nov. 21 show, “Spectrum: A Celebration of Diversity,” features over 100 student performers in 20 acts spanning the globe.

The ISO has been active since it was founded in 1996, planning events ranging from international trivia nights to food workshops to academic panels on globalization.

About 12 percent of the student body are international students from over 75 countries. In addition to the ISO’s 30 active planning members, over 300 students – international and domestic – are registered for the organization’s mailing list.

There is an inclusive duality to the ISO’s missions and goals.

“I think we can view the ISO mission in two ways,” co-president Maya Woser ’18 said. “We are trying to engage international students and provide them with support once they get here while also engaging the larger community by sharing some of our different cultural backgrounds.”

This year’s presentation includes a breadth and variety of acts never attempted before by the ISO. In addition to crowd favorites like Midd Masti, the South Asian dance group, and the African Dance Medley, new additions like a Fijian Meke Dance and a folk reinterpretation of the Korean traditional song “Arirang” are expanding the range of cultures and performances featured in the show.

Large group dances will alternate with more intimate songs, poems or partner dances to highlight the variety of forms cultural expression can take.

“An interesting aspect of this year’s show is that we have groups coming with performances that are very typical, traditional manifestations of their culture, but we also have students adapting and giving new meaning to these traditions,” co-president Danilo Herrera said. “It will be interesting to see how these students who study in America away from home interpret these traditions and give them a new philosophy.”

Performances will represent cultures from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America. Each act is chosen, coordinated and choreographed by students, and participants from any background are welcome to join.

Third-year participant Vera Chan ’16 will be performing in the Midd Masti Bollywood show finale as well as the showcase of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian form of martial arts that combines dance, music and acrobatics.

“As a first-year, I had a lot of international friends, and many of them were also in the ISO show,” Chan said. “I think since coming to Middlebury I’ve had an interest in the performing arts, and this event was my first time performing. I found it to be really fun. I loved learning and sharing the dances and wearing the costumes.”

Each performance also features dress typical to the respective culture, fostering an immersive visual and audial global experience.

The show, much like the organization itself, is designed to champion widespread community engagement with the diverse range of cultures present in the student body.
“Middlebury College does a very good job in raising awareness about diversity through talks, lectures and special projects, but I think the ISO show will be a new way to experience diversity,” Herrera said. “We also believe in art as a way to bring awareness. We strongly believe that having these student go up on stage and show part of their traditions and cultures is a way of bringing to campus a little bit of their cultures and raising greater awareness of diversity.”

Faculty, staff, students and community members are encouraged to attend.

“It’s not every day that you get to see a bunch of cultural art forms in one night,” Chan said. “This is a great opportunity to come and enjoy the variety of beats and colors and languages and support friends who are participating.”

On Saturday, Nov. 21, an amended 5:30 p.m. performance intended for families and children will precede the full 8 p.m. presentation in Wilson Hall. Tickets are available through the Box Office. Prices are $3 for children under 12, $6 for students and $8 for the general public.