ORONO, Maine — From the sensual Argentine tango to the upbeat Arabian khaligy to the stomping, clapping South African gumboot, more than a dozen cultures and nations were represented Saturday during the sixth annual International Dance Festival at the University of Maine.
Multicultural students, those here on visas and others who were interested in sharing their heritage, including a group of students from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, participated in the festival, which is sponsored each year by UMaine’s Office of International Programs.
The students performed twice Saturday at the Collins Center for the Arts.
Several students collaborated on dances not of their own culture, but OIP adviser Sarah Joughlin said that’s one of the special elements of the event.
Three women performed, for example, a Vietnamese fan dance to lead off the program. The same three women, plus another woman who is from Nepal, returned later in the afternoon to perform a dance from northwestern India.
“They’re all friends,” Joughlin said after Saturday afternoon’s performance.
The group from College of the Atlantic performed a gumboot dance, a crowd favorite. The 10 dancers stomped their boot-clad feet, clapped and shouted lyrics — making the dance itself the music and the music the dance, as emcee Aaron Hoshide pointed out before the group took the stage.
COA students Nadege Laporte of Haiti and Ncamiso Sonic Dlamini, who is from Swaziland in southern Africa, said gumboot dancing originated in the mines of the African continent. The mine bosses refused to drain the mines of water, so the workers wore Wellington-style boots, Dlamini said. They made up the stomping rhythms in order to communicate with each other because they came from different countries and spoke different languages.
“All they had was their boots and their bandanas,” said Dlamini, whose father and grandfather were mine workers in Swaziland. “That was the best thing they could use to communicate.”
The gumboot dancers have been practicing and performing together less than a month, but it helped that students such as Dlamini already had experience with the dance.
“There were several people who had been doing gumboot dancing, so we took pieces from everyone’s dances and combined them,” said COA student Robin Owings, who is from Alabama.
UMaine clubs focusing on hip-hop dance, swing dance and a Brazilian martial arts-dance fusion called capoeira also performed Saturday.
There were also cumbia, salsa, merengue, Polish folk dance, hoop dances and other Indian dances.
The International Dance Festival is one of two major events OIP sponsors each year. In the fall semester, international students participate in Culturefest, during which international students staff information booths about their homelands’ cultural exhibits, offer traditional cuisine for sale, and perform traditional songs and dances.
“As we know, Maine is not a very diverse state,” Joughlin said. “But it’s wonderful to have so many people from so many different cultures, whether they’re international students on visas or just have a multicultural background. It’s nice they have a place to express that.”