Cultural performance assembly features dance, music and poetry by students and faculty


Jessica Tang

Senior Makayla Aguilar-Zuniga (wearing white skirt) and junior Mariana Ryder (wearing red skirt) face each other during the Latinx Affinity Group’s performance of “Baile Folklorico” for the Cultural Performance Assembly on Feb. 27. Organized by the Student Diversity Coalition (SDC), the Cultural Performance Assembly featured dance, music and poetry from around the world.

Students, faculty and special guests shared aspects of their cultures through dance, music and poetry during the Cultural Performance Assembly on Feb. 27.

Planning for the event began months beforehand, with the Student Diversity Coalition (SDC) announcing a call for performers in January. Although SDC arranged logistical details such as coordinating with participants and determining timing between performances, the focus of the assembly was to feature the diversity of the Harker community.

“What’s nice about the Cultural Performance Assembly is that it’s less of something manufactured by the SDC and more of us inviting the community to do something in front of the entire school,” SDC Student Leader Fern Biswas (10) said. “When it came to submissions, we were pretty open. It was just, ‘If you have something to perform, go for it.’”

Director of Annual Giving Jun Wang opened the assembly with a folk dance to the song “Swan Goose” in the style of the Chinese Inner Mongolian Urad Tribe, which she dedicated to the graduating class. Wang decided to participate in the assembly after recognizing parallels between the lyrics of “Swan Goose” and her role at Harker.

“The song talks about how the sky is vast, but wherever the swan is, please take my thoughts to my hometown,” Wang said. “And it reminded me of the line, “Once an eagle, always an eagle,” something that we write on the alumni magazine. I wanted to show a little bit about Chinese folk dance, and secondly, it’s a nice connection to the Harker community and alumni.”

Following Wang’s dance, Fern delivered a spoken word performance of “What Are You,” a poem they wrote to reflect on their experience of being East Bengali, an ethnic minority among South Asians. Fern noted that while they had always enjoyed writing poetry as a way of expression, it was the “unapologetic” performances they witnessed at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) that inspired them to explore the art of slam poetry.

Next, Dance Club took the floor with coordinating red outfits and choreography to the Bollywood song “Disco Deewane” from the movie “Student of the Year.” Members of the Latinx Affinity Group then performed “Baile Folklorico,” a dance specific to Latinx culture featuring colorful skirts and intricate footwork.

“I was amazed by how well the students and faculty each represented their cultures,” audience member and upper school history teacher Jonathan Rim said. “I really liked the performance by Latinx Affinity Group in particular. I thought it was really special that [upper school mathematics teacher Jeanette] Fernandez participated and shared her culture with her students, and the fact that she was up there with her son made it extra special.”

Following “Baile Folklorico,” Karina Chen (12) performed “The Little Shepherd,” a song tracing back to ancient folk music from the Southern provinces of China, on the Chinese flute. The assembly ended with a performance by the professional Bay Area ensemble “Ballet Afsaneh” that combined Persian dance and storytelling to depict the Silk Road networks of Eurasia.

“After seeing people’s reactions to the performances, I hope it made some sort of impact in terms of how people see these issues, but also I want to say it’s worth the risk,” Fern said. “I would encourage anybody to take the risk if they can to share parts of their identities because it’s definitely worth the risk.”