The celebration of Latino Heritage Month continues with reflections on last night’s “Swagger Like Us,” Latino Month’s Cultural Showcase and Fashion Show.
Last night Bwog arrived early, but as sartorially inclined soirees are wont to do, the “Swagger Like Us” Latino Heritage Month Showcase and Fashion Show started fashionably late, about forty-five minutes late. After the initial ecstatic rush of the complementary flan and Red Bull wore off, the audience — a mix of predominantly Latino students, friends and family — had tired of dancing and singing along to Kayne remixes and turned to texting.
But when the lights in the Roone Arledge Auditorium finally dimmed, the audience warmly greeted the event’s emcees, Cindy SugaRusH and Yamaneika, a Nuyorican comedian and a black, self-described culturally adopted Nuyorican comedian, and only groaned slightly at their exhortation to buy raffle tickets. The grand prize was a Metrocard. (Insert gallows humor about the economy here.)
The emcees routine at best involved physical humor and sass and at worst resorted to volume and recurrent shout-outs to different Latino nationalities. But despite their occasionally uninspired antics, the pair had definite chemistry and got the crowd excited for the evening’s events, which were designed to take the audience on a tour through time exploring Latin roots and confronting the new identities Latino Americans have embraced in New York City.
In actuality, the event program only itemized seventeen performances, which spotlighted all things Latino from music, dance and spoken word to stand-up comedy and fashion shows. Although Latino and non-Latino students from both Barnard and Columbia performed the majority of the acts, other acts featured members from the greater New York Latino community. But without a doubt the audience’s favorite acts included the numerous dance perfomances and three student-produced fashion shows featuring the designs of Triple 5 Soul, ZooYork and Penguin among others.
The first performance of the night spotlighted Vanity David, BC’ 10, dancing a traditional Bulerias Flamencas dance, which differs from plain old flamenco because it has a faster, more dramatic beat allowing for greater improvisation. The old-world Iberian lore associated with David’s dance made for a historically appropriate introduction to the evening, but was not at all indicative of the ensuing performances, which by in large focused on the contemporary manifestations of Latino culture in New York City.
The first act culminated with a performance given by Ballet Hispanico’s Student Ensemble, whom Cindy SugaRusH and Yamaneika informed the audience have performed at numerous august venues including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and the Macy’s Day Parade among others. But it was Yamaneika’s reference to Ballet Hispanico’s annual perfomance at the Puerto Rican Day Parade that won the audience over. The ensuing performance featured a company of well-trained ballerina/os dancing to salsa-inspired classical music. As the dance developed, the choreography transitioned away from its inital focus on classical ballet to a more abstracted fusion of salsa, tango and jazz.
The second act opened with the first segment of the “Swagger Like Us” fashion show and featured looks from Triple 5 Soul. Strutting down a makeshift catwalk, student models sported skinny jeans, high-heels and bold silk-screen shirts. The second act which included two more runway shows and fabulous dance performances given by Bronx break-dance royalty, Rockefella and her entourage, a trio of tween badasses from the Hostos Lincoln Academy Step Team and Columbia’s own ONYX dance team.
Rockefella encapsulated the atmosphere of the evening and the spirit charging through the audience last night when she gave a pre-performance shout-out to “All yous kick-ass Latinos here at Columbia getting degrees, representing Nuyorican intelligence and making all of us Latinos unidos proud.”