Celebration of cultures brings dancing and music to the Student Commons

Free food and great music brought Algonquin College students of all cultures together
Photo: Ben Fleguel
The Los Paisanos sing out their rendition of Despacito, which prompted several audience members to start dancing.

A lion was spotted dancing through the Student Commons on Thursday, April 4, led across the room by heads of lettuce on sticks and followed by drums and cymbals.

The lion, which had two people hidden inside, was part of the celebration of cultures event. It aimed to give students an opportunity to learn something new.

“It’s an annual event we do every year, and it’s really an opportunity for students to learn about different cultures,” said Samantha Therrien, an events officer with the Students’ Association.

This is the 26th year the SA has run the event and Therrien says it’s as essential as ever.

“We have a very diverse culture of students on campus, so a lot of them actually get to see their own culture,” said Therrien. “It’s an opportunity for them to show other students about their own culture.”

There were 20 booths at the event, with Ghana, Turkey and Indonesia among the countries represented. Each booth had various cultural items to educate college students on their significance and origin. The Indonesian embassy brought along a wall of different fabrics representing different tribes.

Most representatives also brought food native to their countries for students, which quickly had hands full of plates.

As the lion appeared, a balancing act began with students trying to hold their food and record the show.

The Chinese Lion dance crew makes their entrance into the event, already drawing a large semi-circled crowd.
The Chinese Lion dance crew makes their entrance into the event, already drawing a large semi-circled crowd. Photo credit: Ben Fleguel

“It’s kind of weird, seeing that there were two people in the lion. I wonder how they communicate,” said Mohammad Salaudeen, a computer programming student.

Salaudeen said he had seen this lion before, at the Algonquin College Lunar New Year celebration. He was glad the lion made another appearance as more students got to experience the dance.

Salaudeen said that his favourite part was the drumming and that the lion appeared to eat the heads of lettuce it was following. Usually in a lion dance the lettuce would be hung on doors along the street. It would eat and spit out the lettuce in a blessing of prosperity. In this case the lettuce was hung on sticks and held by people around the edges of the event.

Shortly after the lion took its leave, a Mariachi band appeared and marched into the middle of the event.

The Los Paisanos leave nothing on the table during their salsa finale.
The Los Paisanos leave nothing on the table during their salsa finale on April 4. Photo credit: Ben Fleguel

The band Mariachi Los Paisanos, an Ottawa-based musical group, entertained and provided Algonquin College students with some insight into Mexican culture. Their voices have been heard all across Ottawa, doing performances for the governor general, prestigious hotels, various embassies and even donating performances for CHEO and the United Way, according to their website.

They performed popular songs like Despacito and mashups that had the crowd dancing and clapping along. Some couldn’t choose a favourite.

“How can you choose just one song?” said Mitchell Fong, a radio and broadcasting student.

He had never seen a Mariachi band in person before the celebration of cultures and said it did not disappoint.

“It lived up to everything I’ve ever heard,” said Fong.

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