If there’s one thing Northeast High isn’t, it’s homogenous.
At least 40 different languages are spoken by the school’s students, said Pat Ryan, ESOL coordinator.
Kids from scores of backgrounds attend the Cottman Avenue school, and they got a taste of how diverse the student population is during two morning assemblies last week.
On Jan. 17 and 18, students with African, Brazilian, Chinese, Haitian, Indian, Latino, Pakistani and Russian backgrounds performed dances, and sang or played musical instruments on the stage of the school’s auditorium.
Sixteen-year-old Refiola Memushi, who’s of Albanian heritage, ran the sound system from the back of the room as Ayesha Haroon and Siraj Din, both 16 and both from Pakistan, emceed from the stage.
Ayesha introduced a few performances as traditional dances, but some really, at best, could have been called a blend of traditional and, well, not-so-traditional dance and music, especially the performance by Chinese students and the rousing finale by members of the school’s Indo-Pak Club.
Ryan, who has been organizing the show for a few years, said the students are encouraged to show off their cultural heritages, but “the students like to change the music and part of the dance to make it more appealing to the student body.”
The program started off with a show of Indian and Pakistani fashions and went into fast-paced dance routines by Chinese students and traditional dances of several countries by members of the Africa Club. The music was lively and not at all old-fashioned.
A Russian student sang with piano accompaniment before the Haitian Club’s members performed traditional dances and the Latinos Unidos stepped it up with their own blends of dances. Several Indian students, wearing costumes from their country, showed off their country’s dances and a Brazilian student performed on the accordion.
Traditional clothing was left behind when the Indo-Pak Club’s members took the stage again in dark slacks and bright red shirts. Their performance might have had hints of the past, but for the most part, it was high-energy movement. And the music was different. One tune sounded very much like When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
Students began practicing on their own for last week’s program in September, Ryan said. By November, Ryan said, practices were scheduled for before and after classes. Volunteer Irma Myteberi along with Ayesha recruited students groups to participate.
The program is an annual event at Northeast and some students are involved every year.
“From freshman year, I have been in this show,” Refiola said. ••