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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Members of GW dance groups perform at the World Culture Festival

GW dancers go worldwide.
Kaiden Yu | Photographer
A student dance group stands poised on stage as the U.S. Capitol looms.

Twisting and twirling under the silhouette of the U.S. Capitol, GW dancers spun in front of a sea of onlookers Friday for the first U.S.-held World Culture Festival.

Members of two student organizations for dancers, District K and GW Balance, performed alongside a group of collegiate dancers from across the country in a dance routine split into four different genres: contemporary ballet, Bollywood, hip-hop and African dance. The students joined thousands of people on the National Mall on Friday night for multicultural dances, speeches from international and national leaders and to savor delicacies from different cuisines from dozens of food trucks. 

The Art of Living, a nonprofit organization led by controversial spiritual leader Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, hosted the weekend festival full of multicultural performances and food. Attendees laid on the lawn or sat on folding chairs and observed events unfold on stage, while others participated in off-stage activities, including writing inspirational messages on multicolored paper hearts like “YOU ARE LOVED” and “BESOS PARA TODOS.”

Members of Balance and District K said they were honored to participate in the festival and showcase the techniques of their individual styles in the East meets West global dance fusion. The performance was choreographed by professional dancers like Omelika Kuumba, Jainil Mehta and Annelies Richmond.

Dancers for the hip-hop, Bollywood and African portions of the performance awaited their cue to begin their routines on different corners of the square stage. Contemporary ballet dancers, including several GW Balance members donning tan skirts and gold tops, kicked off the performance, gliding into different formations with pique turns and other classical ballet skills before transitioning to the Bollywood group.

Maria Fugel, a senior and co-president of Balance, said the dance was tiring but that she knows how to maintain her stamina throughout intensive routines.

“It’s very high energy,” Fugel said. “It’s a lot of running and jumping. It’s not super long, but it feels very energy intensive.” 

Fugel said the Art of Living invited the group and other dance organizations to perform in July. She said after she talked with the other co-president of Balance, Abbigail Seligman, they sent out an interest form to students, and 15 members expressed interest in performing. 

Fugel said as the festival date approached, she grappled with finding a balance between practicing the choreography to ensure she remembered the routine while also conserving her energy for the performance.

“It’s something you learn being a dancer,” Fugel said. “I’ve grown up dancing. I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, so I think I just know what’s right for my body and how my body’s feeling.”

Sahana Withanachchi, a sophomore in Balance, said it was an honor to perform at an event with a large audience because the group’s shows at the end of each semester in the University Student Center usually don’t attract as large of a turnout.

“The meaning of the performance feels bigger than it is,” Withanachchi said.

Hip-hop dancers, including members of District K — a K-pop hip-hop dance team — brought an upbeat rhythm to the stage following the Bollywood segment. Sporting electric blue pants with white and blue tops, dancers ran onstage to deliver a routine complete with powerful jumps and ripple effects, where dancers mimicked each other’s moves before heading to a back corner of the stage to make way for the African dance unit.

Eva Dudzinska, a sophomore and member of District K, said her “jaw dropped” when she learned during the first in-person rehearsal that Emmy Award-winning choreographer and YouTuber Dominic Sandoval, better known as “D-Trix,” would teach the hip-hop section.

“He was someone that I looked up to a lot when I was younger,” Dudzinska said. “You never really think that you’re going to meet the people that you look up to, your celebrities, so being able to learn from him and dance with him is something that I never thought that I would ever get to do.”

Dudzinska said performing at the festival was an opportunity that allowed the team to familiarize themselves with other dancers and for her to showcase her progress as a dancer.

“I’m taking it as an opportunity to show my friends and family how much I’ve grown as a dancer to be able to participate in an event of this scale,” Dudzinska said in a message. 

At the end of the group performances, all four units took centerstage to dance alongside each other in a sea of vibrant colors, holding peace signs in the air to cap off the routine.

Junior Naomi Adigun, a member for District K, said the festival was one of the biggest stages and audiences that she has performed on, and she was grateful to have experienced an event that brings many people together in “real-time.”

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity because we are meeting so many people from all over the states and all over the world,” Adigun said.

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