Rodeo, New Mexico
June 21, 2005
Piecing It Together was the intent of this year’s event. Community building, social justice, and true democracy are the stated principles underlying Culture Fest. I’d already missed over an hour of performances and was disappointed to discover Aztec dancers among those missed. But the Vietnamese hat dance was elegant, followed by poetry readings by an earnest young man from Michoacán. His readings were poignant, expressing alternate pride, regret, and mixed emotions concerning his family, background, and the dominant culture. A crowd of young people, in mostly black-and-red clothing, had been attracting attention near the stage area due to their good looks and high energy. It turned out they were the next act, PCE Modern.
Modern is hot. From the moment they took the stage, the audience was engaged and excited. Hip-hop and urban pop dancing, the troupe told stories with their bodies, interactions, and music, showcasing individuals and smaller groups within the larger. PCE stands for Pilipino Cultural Exchange, a Cal Poly student group active since 1973. Modern does not require prior dancing experience, nor even Filipino ethnicity to join. But motivation and willingness to practice whatever it takes to master the dance routines are mandatory.
Dance contest: The afternoon spun out enjoyably with traditional, as well as contemporary, dances and performances by other student organizations. Then it was time for the dance contest. The student MCs put forth great effort persuading audience members to participate, mostly met with refusals. Finally, four young guys were corralled (or coerced?) and the music began; each had to demonstrate their dancing skills individually. To my surprise, the geeky-looking, white computer-science major was an excellent dancer and won the contest.
More than 20 student associations and several Greek houses (sororities/fraternities) participated in Culture Fest 05. Hillel had a juice booth (get it? Jews, juice?). The Black Student Union danced a mean hip-hop. The Polynesian dancers offered free hula lessons to anyone interested following their dance. I didn’t stay for the closing, getting impatient phone calls from a hungry Bob waiting for me at Mo’s BBQ some blocks away.
From journal Party Down in SLO Town