With quick and graceful motions, Alex Ma ’17 plucked a series of short notes on the guzheng with her right hand as she performed Ji Wei’s “Moon is High.” Ma also used her left hand to play steady low trills on the traditional Chinese stringed instrument, before ending the piece on a soft and peaceful chord.
Ma’s performance was one of six in iTalent, the talent show portion of International Festival (iFest). Held in Kemper Auditorium and emceed by Tucker Drew ’17 and Sophia Gilmour ’19, board members of International Club (iClub), iTalent also included a fashion show, iFashion, in which 18 students modeled traditional clothing from nine different countries, including China, Dominica, Japan and Burkina Faso.
Susanne Torabi, International Student Coordinator, said, “Because this is an American high school, it’s important for us to remember that ten percent of our students come from other countries, and they leave a lot of culture behind. That’s what we got a glimpse into tonight, to see what they perhaps have grown up with. I always wonder how they feel, coming here and thinking about going to college here, how much can they keep of their culture, and their music, their language.”
Marius Orehovschi ’16 took the stage to perform his rendition of O-Zone’s “Dragonstea Din Tei,” a famous Moldavian pop song. Sitting on a barstool in the middle of the stage, Orehovschi strummed the iconic melody on an electric guitar while he sang the Romanian lyrics.
“I chose to perform [‘Dragonstea Din Tei’] because, despite it being a worldwide hit, very few people knew where it was actually from,” Orehovschi wrote in an email to The Phillipian. “All of my friends with whom I talked about it before iTalent told me that they knew the song but had no idea it was from Moldova. Some of [my friends] did not even know its original name… so I thought it would be nice if I played the song… In this way the audience would learn something about the country I am from.”
Another act was Clara Li ’19 and Ali Nunes ’17 performing a DramaLab about two American girls living in Japan. The serious skit explored the theme of culture shock in an unfamiliar environment.
Nunes wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “On the one hand, the ideas presented in this DramaLab are important to explore because it emphasizes how welcoming and cohesive our community is at Phillips Academy. There are so many different people on campus looking out for us, students and faculty alike. On the flip side, [the DramaLab] also raises the important issue that some people do feel isolated and lonely on our campus despite our best efforts. It’s important to recognize that while Phillips is inviting and welcoming, there are still steps to be taken to include everyone in our amazing community.”
Accompanied by Jonathan Jow ’16 on the violin, Joel Peña ’16 played the keyboard and sang “He Said,” a slow Chinese ballad by JJ Lin. The act began with a violin solo before slowly transitioning into a harmonious duet between Jow and Peña. The combination of Jow’s violin and Peña’s soft, powerful voice created an ethereal mood.
“It’s kind of funny, because neither [Joel nor I] are international students,” said Jow. “So it’s good that even if neither of us were international students, we can still celebrate culture in general.”
iFashion followed the iTalent performances. Both international and domestic students alike paraded into Kemper Auditorium and presented fun facts about the country their clothing represented.
As one of the four representatives for China, Jen Guo ’19 wore a pink ankle-length qipao adorned with gold, floral embroidery and featuring a high, elegant neckline. The qipao is a traditional Chinese dress that was primarily worn from the 19th to early 20th century.
Guo said, “[I decided to model] mainly because… I really wanted to learn about other countries [since] I’ve lived in China all my life and I’ve never really been anywhere outside of China. Learning about other cultures is really fascinating for me.”
Malika Dia ’17, representing Burkina Faso, modeled a blue, ankle-length dress with a tight bodice and an airy skirt. Dia’s dress was made in Burkina Faso with pagne, an untailored cotton textile.
“I modeled it partially because it was more comfortable than my other garment, but also because I thought it had a very beautiful finish to it, and so I really wanted to show people that there’s a bunch of cool stuff that’s worn where I’m from,” said Dia. “I’m just really glad that we can have this event, because internationality is often disregarded on campus, so I really like iFest, and I’m glad it could happen.”