Last Friday, Baker Center Ballroom was full of rich culture, music and, of course, dance. A segment of the 3rd Global Arts Festival, the 11th World Music and Dance Concert took place from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The concert featured multiple groups, including the Ohio University Steel Band, Ohio University African Ensemble and Ohio University Percussion Studio. The headlining act was Oyu Oro, an Afro-Cuban dance group based in New York City.
“The group is very happy to participate in the event,” Francisco Mora-Catlett, the technical director, said.
The concert was made possible by its directors, Paschal Yao Younge and Zelma Badu-Younge. Younge is a professor of music education and Badu-Younge is a professor of dance as well as the director of the School of Dance.
Younge said the motivation behind creating these programs was the desire to expose students to different cultures they may not have had the opportunity to learn about prior.
“We realized in both our classes that students don't know anything outside of Ohio,” he said.
Now, both Younge and Badu-Younge teach classes to help hone and grow their students’ understanding of different traditions and elements of cultures. Younge teaches Introduction to World Music and Badu-Younge teaches Introduction to African Dance Technique, to name a few.
“The cultural aspect is very important,” Younge said. “You realize in the academic world that you’re learning and reading about all these cultures but the best thing is to experience the culture, so that is the reason why we decided to bring this festival to Ohio University.”
Badu-Younge said that each year they try to showcase different groups, and they decided on inviting Oyu Oro after seeing the group perform.
“This year, we decided that we wanted to have something different for the festival, and we’ve been observing this Afro-Cuban group for a while,” she said.
Rachel Parks, a freshman studying music education, and Lainey Harbert, a freshman studying dance and choreography, both performed with the African Ensemble. Parks and Harbet also took the African Dance Technique class with Badu-Younge.
Although neither of the students had experience with African-style dance, both of them expressed how their interest in the style is growing and how they want to learn more in the future.
“It has been really fun to learn a different culture’s style of dance,” Harbert said. “It’s also really cool to learn the traditional dances that they do in different parts of Africa. It’s been really fun and also really neat to kind of explore a different type of culture of dance.”
Despite her extensive training in dance, Harbert said she was a novice to African styles.
“(Even) with my training in dance before, I’ve never actually taken an African (dance) class, so this was brand new to me,” Harbert said.
Parks was in agreement with Harbert, expressing her love for learning about different cultures through dance.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn art and dance from different cultures,” Parks said.
She said she has really enjoyed learning a style of dance that was outside her wheelhouse.
“I’m really involved in dance, so learning more than just the Western culture that I’m used to is really, really interesting and a lot of fun,” Parks said.
Regarding Badu-Younge and Younge, Parks had nothing but great things to say about the couple, specifically their attitudes and dispositions.
“(Badu-Younge) is amazing,” Parks said. “She always has a positive attitude. She loves that everybody’s there and everybody is willing to work hard. It is a similar experience with Dr. Paschal Younge. He is always quick to crack jokes and he really wants people to have fun and enjoy what they’re doing.”
It is clear the couple is dedicated to their craft and education, given that the majority of the costumes and instruments showcased in the concert are their own.
Additionally, it is evident that many of the professors’ students feel similarly to Parks about their character and dedication since some are returning to campus to support the pair.
“Some former students who graduated from here 10-15 years ago are actually coming back (to help),” Badu-Younge said.
The concert was $15 for general admission and free for all OU students. Younge and Badu-Younge said the most important thing to them was that students walked away with a bigger amount of cultural admiration and appreciation.
“That’s why we do this,” Younge said.