Every culture has its own style of representation. A big part of representing various cultures comes through music and dance, two creative languages working to portray cultural differences through the common ground of the art form.
The annual World Music and Dance Concert will be held Friday in Ohio University’s Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium to inspire cultural differences through the common platform of music and dance.
Paschal Yao Younge, founder and co-director of the concert, feels it’s his mission to educate the audience on diversity within other cultures.
“We want to create opportunities for students to experience diverse cultures through the arts,” Younge, an associate professor of music, said. “There’s no better way to learn about diverse cultures than through the arts.”
Younge founded the concert nine years ago — in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the Performing Arts Series, the Office of Global Affairs and International Studies, and other groups — to create a night of cultural experiences.
The goal of the evening is to introduce attendees to a variety of musical sounds and dance movements from all around the world, all while providing an educational experience through interaction with performers. Younge emphasized the importance of respect for other cultures and how events like the World Music and Dance Concert teach that other cultures are as developed and sophisticated as any.
“We are all a whole bowl of salad,” Younge said. “Individually, we provide different ingredients, but for us to be able to eat the whole salad, we have to come together.”
Multiple groups will perform at the concert, including professional and university artists. Some of the groups include the OU African Ensemble, the OU Steel Band, Noel Quintana’s Latin Crew, New Chords on the Block and the Alexander High School Percussion Ensemble.
Keaysia Middlebrooks, a junior studying dance, is a performer and a co-captain in the concert and is involved in three different pieces, one of which brings the entire cast of the concert together.
“The show is so important because it increases the knowledge of different cultures and enhances appreciation of them and of diversity in general,” Middlebrooks said. “It celebrates world music and dance and brings it all together so the audience can have an increased knowledge of what every other culture in the world is like.”
Younge and his wife, Zelma Badu-Younge, co-direct the show and like to include an element at the end of the show in which the audience gets to interact with the cast. The interaction comes during a Latin music section so the audience can salsa and “get their groove on,” Younge said.
“We live in Ohio. Some students have never traveled or been out of the country, so it gives the audience the experience of being in another country and experiencing different music and dance forms,” Badu-Younge, a professor of dance, said. “You have all of these forms coming together, and you show the movement together so people can see how different they are. Through understanding the cultures, you also understand the people. We’re trying to introduce the world to Athens.”
For the ninth year of the concert, Younge has decided to add a language section to emphasize how big of a role language plays in culture. The piece showcases a wide range of languages, but there will not be any subtitles, so the audience can appreciate the language itself, not simply the meaning of the words.
Younge hopes people will come and enjoy the concert — and try to bring their moms as a fun way to incorporate the show into Moms Weekend.
Middlebrooks thinks the show is important for people to see, both for fun and for educational purposes.
“People should come and try something new through a concert that’s meant to be fun and inclusive,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s important everyone comes with an open mind and an open heart and a willingness to learn from anything put on the stage.”