A celebration of love, international style

BY MATT HUTCHINS

A Taekwondo demonstration showed off kicks, punches, and board breaking
Tannaz Jourabchi, in a traditional Iranian costume, dances on stage

Each year, top attorneys and legal scholars from around the world come to Harvard to pursue an LL.M. or S.J.D., and each Spring the home nation of each visitor is showcased in a celebration of diverse cultures and traditions. This year, a smorgasbord of ethnic dishes and a full cabaret of performances dazzled the students of HLS with costumes and flavors from around the world.

Among the special dishes prepared by students were varieties of crepes and cookies, Russian and Chinese dumplings, Swedish and Italian meatballs. Local rice dishes were prepared by students from countries such as Uzbekistan and India and served at tables representing Africa and Latin America too. Those who arrived early could try beers from Brazil and Belgium, and for those who preferred wine there was plenty of cheese to be sampled. Sweets were available from the Swiss, who had fondue as well as cookies and chocolate. The Canadians served cookies and chocolate, and Costa Rica had coffee and candy. If coffee isn’t your thing, Taiwanese bubble tea was an exotic way to wash down dessert.

Bollywood dancers got the night’s performances going. Next was a demonstration of Taekwondo fighting technique, with white uniformed fighters showing off synchronized punches and kicks. There was a sparring match, followed by board breaking. Wood was no match for fist and foot, even when held up for a jump kick.

Taiwanese girls in colorful orange and blue outfits danced in circles while waving their feathery headdresses. Their grace was later challenged by a band of German ballerinas (turn to the back cover to see who won the contest). When a group of men took stage to perform a Maori dance from New Zealand, they loudly shouted and stomped, slapping and thrusting with power and pride. Another group performance showed the spirit and enthusiasm of Scotland. Men and women joined arms to prance and spin in what could only be called a British ho-down.

Later, Daniel Perez Umana and Diora Ziyaeva took the stage with a pair of dances, first showing off a traditional Uzbek dance with waving hands and tapping feet. Each wore a long dark robe, Diora’s covered with shining gold embroidery, matching her traditional gold hat. Then they both slung aside their robes and broke into a fast-paced latin dance with salsa spins and quick fiery steps. Meanwhile, Tannaz Jourabchi danced on the stage behind them, clapping and spinning in an Iranian combination of dress, vest, and hat with blue and pink silk trimmed with bright yellow tassels.

In the end, a general carnival was proclaimed, and everyone began dancing together and blowing horns. Hats and beads were handed out, and before long a conga line had formed, winding its way from Sweden to Switzerland, down past Belgium to Brazil, around the Italian table and out one door to come back in to the other and onto the main floor.

People from around the world were forming circles, putting arms around each other, jumping, singing, and enjoying an open celebration of the variety and similarity of all the world’s people.

The international party was one of the rare opportunities at HLS when the variety and vivacity of the international students is brought to the forefront and put on display to the whole school. To many, it may seem that this is an oddity at a school which to many seems entirely centered on American law and customs, and indeed it may be the only time that many of the J.D. students ever come in contact with a large group of LL.M.s. It is unfortunate that day-to-day there is so little interaction between J.D.s and LL.M.’s, because indeed the atmosphere at the international party is just one example of the fun loving international crowd’s ability to come together and celebrate.

It may have only been a coincidence that the international party fell on Valentine’s Day, but it was a refreshing alternative to the ritualistic restaurant-going which is so typical of this over-commercialized holiday.

Indeed, it was a great show of love to see people from all around the world come together and show off, inviting others to come taste home-cooked meals and learn about local culture. If only there were a way to make it possible for cities around the world to look as diverse and inclusive as our own Ropes-Gray room appeared, it would certainly make it much easier to get people to look past their differences and begin thinking about peace, cooperation, and mutually beneficial development.

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