FAASSU celebrates culture through dance

Backflips on benches, 50 years of marriage and guest performances were just a few of the aspects packed into this year’s Pacific Cultural Night. 

The two-hour-long show was put on by the Filipino American Association at Sonoma State University (FAASSU). 

The seventh annual Pacific Cultural Night was held at the Green Music Center for the very first time on Friday night. The show sold out the first level of Weill Hall.

This year’s theme was “Kuwento,” which means “story” in Tagalog. The stories, told through dance, were about Lola and Lolo’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. Lola, played by Cat Madriaga, and Lolo, played by Sebastian Cardona, created a comedic environment for the audience in-between the more serious performances. Lola and Lolo constantly made wisecracks at each other throughout the show and depicted the perfect stereotype of lovable Filipino grandparents, although they weren’t inspired by anyone in particular.

“Lolo is based off of a lot of people. When I was young me and my cousins used to be loud mouths and we used to make fun of all of our uncles and aunties. Whatever they’d say to us, we would mimic it back in an even deeper accent and that’s kind of where Lolo derived from,” said Sebastian Cardona, a senior and jazz studies and piano major.

The night started out with the American and Philippine national anthems, and progressed into the first performance of the night, “Malakas at Maganda.” 

This was a dance about the first man and woman in the Philippines. The dance was choreographed by Jessica Amen and Jason Valdez and told the story of a bird that discovered the first man, Malakas, and the first woman, Maganda.

Another dance performed was Ilaw Anahaw which required the girls to balance candles on their hands and heads while other performances, like the Haka, intimidated the audience with a war cry. 

This year’s Pacific Cultural Night included dances from the Philippines, Hawai’i, New Zealand and Tahiti. All choreography was designed and created by students of FAASSU. 

Pacific Cultural Night also brought about the debut performance of KAPWA Modern with a hip-hop dance routine.

This year’s coordinators, Jessica Amen and Stacey Smyth, have been planning Pacific Cultural Night since the beginning of the school year. 

Practices for the show begin during the Spring semester and were held Monday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. along with occasional weekend practices. Every member of FAASSU was invited to perform in any dance that had unlimited space. 

“It’s been extremely crazy to be a leader and communicate with people your own age. To step up and lead them is a whole new experience for me. Next year I will follow through being coordinator again so at least I know what I should be doing. I’ve learned a lot, it’s such an amazing experience I can’t even put it into words,” said Jessica Amen, a sophomore and technical theater major.

The show also included guest performances by the Blue Baronz Dance Club, Hip-Hop artist DJ Pauze, Ballet Folklorico de Sonoma and jazz performances by Sebastian Cardona and Joel Renteria. FAASSU holds themselves to a high standard of being inclusive to all cultures on campus which is why they invited groups like the Ballet Folklorico de Sonoma, who performed a Mexican folk-dance, to partake in the show. 

The audience was in for quite the shock as the night ended. 

The first of thefinal two dances required assisted backflips on benches and the second dance had performers maneuver through moving sticks while blindfolded. 

For students interested in being a part of Pacific Cultural Night next year, FAASSU is open to all students at Sonoma State regardless of cultural background.