Multicultural Showcase of Beauty-A Review
1st Annual Multicultural Showcase of Beauty. June 2, 2006. Metro State University, Saint Paul (MN): A Review by Lynn Mari, 2006
The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty is hosted by Women Empowered, a student organization at Metro State that works to help women achieve success and overcome obstacles by advocating for women’s issues, hosting events and offering mentoring services. The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty is a celebration of the diversity and uniqueness of beauty among many cultures. The theme of the Multicultural Showcase of Beauty is: Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty was a celebration of the way beauty is used to pass on knowledge, impart values and represent a particular culture.
The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty began with refreshments and a “hands on display” hour. The hands on display was a time to meet with Showcase presenters and explore beauty through various cultural interpretations. The hands on display included hand painting, sampling various beauty products, and trying on African head wraps that were tied in a colorful bun.
The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty included a poetry reading by Ciana Cullens, ethnic dancers from China, the Middle, East, Africa and the Lakota Nation, and modeling of costumes from various cultures.
The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty began when Ciana Cullens read a poem called “A Woman’s Beauty Under Represented”. “A Woman’s Beauty Under Represented” is a poem about the beauty of Black women being “long denied”. The poem reflects on the African ancestry of Black women, and the diversity of traits passed down. “A Woman’s Beauty Under Represented” discusses the beauty of Black women, who are not appreciated by a society that limits what the definition of beauty is. I found “A Woman’s Beauty Under Represented” to be both a celebration of Black women and a scathing protest against prejudice.
Other presentations included:
The Twin Cities Chinese Dancers performed three visually stunning, highly creative dances that infused traditional Chinese folk dance with a modern perspective. The first dance was called “The Flower Princess Dance” and was performed to classical music. The costume for “The Flower Princess Dance” was a long black dress with a flared skirt bordered in gold ribbon. A headdress representing a flower was also worn. The “Flower Princess” dance was very much like ballet but with acrobatic floor moves. The dance was carefully coordinated—each movement and facial expression was designed to tell a story or express an emotion. Another dance by the Twin Cities Chinese Dancers was to portray the beauty of women in daily life. This dance was about women from farming villages who were washing clothes. The most stunning aspect of this dance was that the hair of the dancers was used as part of the dance—the movement and appearance of the long, locks of black hair was integrated into the overall dance, and the message it conveyed. This dance was performed to Asian music and was very fast-paced; its style was similar to African dances. The dancers were barefoot and the gentle stomping of their feet on the hardwood floor, and the occasion swish as they twirled in circles, created a music of its own. The dance also included posing and graceful hand gestures. The final dance performed by the Twin Cities Chinese Dancers was called “Celestial Mountain Blossoms”, which was a Tibetan-influenced dance about maidens reflecting on their future. The movements were in the style of Indian dances. Another unique aspect of the Twin Cities Chinese Dancers is that the formation, and gathering of the dancers themselves was designed to create a picture or a symbol that complemented the overall dance. The artistry in the dances, with the talent of the Twin Cities Chinese Dancers was amazing.
Asian models showcased costumes from Vietnam, the Hmong New Year
and the Philippines. The Hmong New Year dresses were of Chinese-Hmong influence. The dresses were in bright colors of gold, magenta, and green and decorated with intricate embroidery, tinkling beads and geometric designs. One model wore a circular headdress with embroidery and gold tassels. Another model wore a ceremonial dress from Vietnam with matching pants in mint green fabric with a narrow, slit skirt and glitter at the neckline. There was a model in Thai dress that wore a pink, silk dress with a matching sash. The dress was complemented with ornate gold braiding and matching gold jewelry and armbands. The costumes from the Philippines included a party dress made of linen with lace panels and long dress with a wraparound skirt.
A dance group of two women called MAWA performed African dances. The dances were very energetic, and the movements were focused around a small, circular area (compared to the Twin Cities Chinese Dancers who used the whole stage in their performance). The African dances required flexibility (at times MAWA was dancing in fast gyrations and bumps near the floor then coming up within a matter of seconds!). I noticed that the African dance was attuned to the rhythm within the music; each movement seemed to throb with the drums or cymbals in the music—creating a visually represented sound. One recommendation I would have for MAWA is to create a finale or finish for their dances. Instead of just walking off the stage, create a pose or an image to leave the audience with an impression of MAWA, of what the dance is about.
African clothing was represented in two dresses from Ethiopia. Both dresses were made of light fabric and left the arms bare. The first dress was a long dress with green and white stripes that had a flared skirt. The second dress was a long dress that was close fitting with a diamond pattern at the bottom. It included a sash that hung low over the hips and was worn with sandals decorated with glittering beads. Anita Gates then came to the stage to represent a Lakota ceremonial dress and also performed a dance to Native American music. Anita Gates is a very graceful woman who wore a dress that was remarkable in its artistry, and representation of the Lakota people. The dress was royal blue with gold and white and decorated with quills, fringe and embroidery. Anita Gates carried a purse made of hide and also wore moccasins decorated with colorful beads. In the Lakota culture, when a girl became a woman she would be dressed in a bead dress and songs would be sung to her. The girl was initiated as a woman by elder women, and told about her role in the community. Anita Gates also held an eagle feather, and did a simple dance that conveyed pride about her heritage.
Finally, there was a Middle Eastern dance performed by Eloisa Beyer. The Middle Eastern dance was similar to belly dancing but also included a lot of twirling and footwork. I was amazed how fast and easily Eloisa Beyer could move while wearing spike heals (I would have fallen to my face!). Eloisa Beyer is a very talented dancer who captured the audience with the mystery of a scarf dance and the dazzled the audience by dancing with a sword balanced on top of her head. The sword stayed perfectly balanced while Eloisa Beyer shimmied to the ground and back up again, and as she spun in circles. The Middle Eastern dance was, overall, very dramatic. Anita Gates modeled a dress from Saudi Arabia and wore with it, pointed silk shoes with fancy beads. Long hair complemented the flowing dress, in Saudia Arabia, beauty is measured by both loose hair and a flowing dress. The dress was designed in layers of blue, sheer fabric and 24 karat gold was plated within the front panels and embroidery of the dress.
The Multicultural Showcase of Beauty concluded with remarks by Darcel Hill that beauty is evident in every culture, and should be celebrated while respecting the diversity among interpretations of beauty. Beauty is individual, and unique but also evident in the ways we treat others. I was very impressed by the Multicultural Showcase of Beauty. Women Empowered did an excellent job of presenting the showcase. I look forward to next year’s showcase.