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One World Concert Celebrates Cultures Represented in Ithaca’s Student Community

Ithaca College senior Anika Verma has been an Indian classical dancer for most of her life, starting at the young age of five. Though her dance background is primarily classical, for one of her performances at this year’s One World Concert on Nov. 8, she decided to do something different.

Verma joined forces with her best friend Jason Khan, also a senior, to choreograph a 1970s Bollywood dance — a style Verma hasn’t performed in 13 years and that Khan had not previously attempted. His background is in break dancing.

“We practiced a lot together,” Verma said. “We just listened to the songs — actually, the only reason that we ended up doing it was just because both of us really liked the song from the 70s.”

The opportunity to showcase one’s culture through music, song or dance is the intention behind the One World Concert, which is hosted by the Ithaca College International Club (ICIC) every year. Presented since 2001 as part of International Education Month, the two-hour event held in Emerson Suites is dedicated to celebrating the different cultures represented on the Ithaca College and Cornell University campuses.

Acts ranged from solos to larger group numbers, along with other on-campus performance groups such as hip-hop company IC Pulse and a cappella group Pitch Please.

Cornell Bhangra, an Indian folk dance group founded in 1997, performed at Ithaca College’s annual One World Concert on November 8 in Emerson Suites. (Ithaca Week/Brianna Ruback)

A Learning Opportunity

One of the main goals behind the One World Concert is to educate Ithaca community members on other cultures that they might not be exposed to otherwise.

Khan, who has performed at the concert since his sophomore year, said in addition to being given the space to show off his culture to others, the event provides people with a learning experience.

“You [could have] only grown up with your family’s culture,” said Khan. “Let’s say you’re South Asian like I am. I only grew up with South Asian culture, so I wouldn’t know anything from Latin culture or East Asian culture or African culture. It’s a really rare opportunity to be able to even expose yourself to [so many other cultures], so I think that’s great.”

The student population comprises most of the concert’s audience. Going forward, Khan said he hopes for the concert to have a greater reach in the Ithaca community as a whole.

Senior Rilya Greeslamirya, who sang an Indonesian song while playing the guitar, said the One World Concert highlights the existence of the college’s international community.

“…there isn’t a lot of diversity on campus, and I feel like with this concert, along with many other events that are sponsored by other clubs on campus, it’s just a way to show that we’re here.”

Senior Rilya Greeslamirya performed an Indonesian song called “Pupus,” which means “to disappear.” The song is about a being in a one-sided relationship or having an unrequited love.

ICIC hosts several other events throughout the year to raise cultural awareness such as Interfashional Night, an event for international students to represent their cultures by modeling traditional clothing from around the world.

The Personal Impact

Seniors Jason Khan and Anika Verma performed together two years ago at the Ithaca College International Club’s Interfashional Night. Their routine combined Verma’s classical background with Khan’s break dancing background. (Photo courtesy of Anika Verma)

Greeslamirya is one of several seniors who has performed at the One World Concert since her first year at the college. She said if she had not performed, she would feel like something was missing from her semester. For Greeslamirya, the event holds a lot of sentimental value because it has been a place for her to meet many of her international friends.

Although a major element of the concert is exposure to new cultures, for many students, this night also strengthens and enhances their connection to their own background.

“I think events like these make me come to appreciate my culture a little bit more because it’s such a beautiful and diverse and just colorful culture — India, Pakistan [and] all South Asia,” Verma said. “It’s just a huge melting pot of people, ethnicities, cultures, religions even.”

Khan also emphasized how having the chance to represent his culture through dance is meaningful for him because he does not get to do it often.

“It’s a rare opportunity, and I kind of cherish that a lot,” he said. “So, I wish there was more of it, but I’m cherishing what we’ve got right now.”

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