Multicultural moves

Indo-Pak, a stu­dent or­gan­iz­a­tion in North­east High School, per­forms tra­di­tion­al In­di­an dances for the school’s mul­ti­cul­tur­al pro­gram. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / FOR THE TIMES


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. ••

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