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The 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase: ‘A Family Affair’

A performance at the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase.
A performance at the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase. By Marina Qu
By Makayla I. Gathers, Crimson Staff Writer

On Saturday, the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase followed a full week of programming, organized by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural & Race Relations. In addition to honoring Angela E. Bassett and Courtney B. Vance ’82 as the Artists of the Year, this year’s show hosted 10 cultural performing acts performed by students of Harvard.

“Our students, our faculty, our staff have been involved in so many aspects of trying to make our world a better place, a safer place, a healthier place, a more inclusive place,” Dean Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, said at the beginning of the show.

“For almost four decades now, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations has enhanced our pursuit of that mission by showing to us the power of our differences and also the power of what we all aspire to become in improving the quality of Harvard College and our common life, Khurana said.

Nicolette T. Reale ’26, who attended the show, shared a similar sentiment regarding the importance of student and cultural expression at Harvard.

“I love going to all student performances on campus. I think it’s really cool. I think everyone here is really good at what they do, and it’s just really nice to see everyone embracing their culture. It gets really emotional, and it’s just a great vibe always,” Reale said.

The directors for this year’s show were Kyla N. Golding ’24, who directed last year’s Cultural Rhythms Show, and Cindy H. Phan ’24.

“As we watched the show come to life over the past few months and over the course of our Harvard years, we are in awe of the various cultural expressions of our peers that show us how to dream limitlessly,” Golding said.

Jason J. Coreas ’27 and Tiffany C. Onyeiwu ’25 — co-hosts for the evening’s event — shared why this year’s Cultural Rhythms was a historic one, as it was the first time the Harvard Foundation would award two Artists of the Year. The theme of this year’s showcase — “A Family Affair” — celebrated Bassett and Vance as the first couple to be jointly presented with this prestigious award.

“Between the two of them, they have Emmys, a Tony, a Golden Globe, an honorary Oscar, and now a Harvard Foundation Cultural Rhythms Artist of the Year Award,” Onyeiwu said.

Coreas and Onyeiwu led the audience through the show, conducting interviews, sharing jokes, and occasionally joining in themselves. A highlight of the night consisted of Coreas and Onyeiwu trying “tinikling,” a traditional Philippine dance, with Harvard Undergraduate Philippine Forum.

Performer at the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase.
Performer at the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase. By Marina Qu

Kicking off the performances, the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College took the stage — singing harmonies in a mass choir. Other performances by Harvard Asian American Dance Troupe, Candela Latin Dance Troupe, and Harvard College Undergraduate Bhangra soon followed — each being met with roaring cheers and applause.

Bryant Y. Valenzuela ’25, who independently performed a selection of songs, inspired a heartwarming display of audience members’ flashlights illuminating Sanders Theatre during his performance.

“I feel like music, and specifically in Mexican culture, is the one thing that breaks down the barriers of class, language, culture amongst Mexican space, and I think that it’s such a beautiful thing,” Valenzuela said after the performance.

The Harvard Taekwondo Demonstration Team was also met with a standing ovation from the crowd. Audience member Ellen S. Hwang ’24 expressed her admiration and personal connection for their performance.

“I got to represent Korea, woo-woo, the land of my people!” she said. “I loved the taekwondo act. I think it was great that they involved K-pop as well and really showed that the martials arts really does have a lot of beauty to it, and there is a lot of discipline that goes behind the sport, so I am really glad they were able to showcase that.”

During the intermission, audience member Eleanor M. Bolsoni ’26 shared her thoughts about the show.

“It’s absolutely amazing. I’m so glad I came,” she said, mentioning that it was her first time seeing the Cultural Rhythms Show. “It’s definitely a great celebration of the diversity and the different cultures at Harvard and how engaged people are with those cultures, and it’s wonderful to see.”

The show’s second act included three returning acts that performed in last year’s show: Mariachi Veritas × RAZA Ballet Folklórico, Omo Naija × The Wahala Boys, and the Harvard Undergraduate Philippine Forum.

Performers at the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase.
Performers at the 38th Cultural Rhythms Showcase. By Marina Qu

After a brief video from Bassett — who wasn’t able to attend the event in person — Golding and Phan returned to the stage to present Vance with his and Bassett’s Artist of the Year Awards.

“Thank you once more to Mrs. Bassett and Mr. Vance for leading with grace and showing us how to leverage our creativity in mind with our own personal and urgent missions,” Phan said.

She then took a seat to conduct a conversation between her, Golding, and Vance, where Vance shared personal anecdotes about Bassett, college, how he met his wife, and the details about their creative processes.

The show finished with the return of representatives from each performance, joined by co-hosts Coreas and Onyeiwu and directors Golding and Phan. Everyone held the flags of their respective cultures as they took their bows. The finale showed solidarity and diversity among the Harvard community, once again bringing the crowd to their feet.

—Staff writer Makayla I. Gathers can be reached at makayla.gathers@thecrimson.com.

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