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¡Viva la Dominicana!

On February 22, 2012

Although he had to work on the day of the event, there was no doubt in Kris King's mind that he would say yes to an invitation to perform at "Areito" on Feb. 18.

"It's always a blessing to experience other people's culture," said King, a junior majoring in vocal performance. "It's an honor just to be here - to have great friends that I call my brothers and sisters."

In its fourth year, "Areito" is a cultural celebration of the Dominican Republic expressed through dance, music and food. Held in the TSC Ballroom on Feb. 18, the show was sponsored by the Dominican Student Association.

The opening act of the show includes masked dancers wearing colorful outfits layered with newspaper strips and dancing to classic Dominican carnival music.

Apart from dancing and singing, a religious performance was staged by a group of students from different Christian denominations who call themselves Tribu InDependient. Through the use of black lights, performers depicted song lyrics for "In Christ Alone." Scenes were created through the use of fluorescent figures portraying Christ as the fortress of life.

"We've had some issues (staging this performance), because in the D.R. most people are Catholic," said Melinda Santos, a senior majoring in environmental engineering who is also the public relations director of the Dominican Student Association. "(But) it's a lot about being religious - like (being) a good person and having a relationship with God."

Dinner was prepared by students from the Dominican Republic and included white rice, beans, chicken, potato salad and cultural staples such as empanadas, which are half-moon-shaped dough pockets stuffed with meat, and pastelon, which is layers of mashed potatoes, beef and cheese.

During the event, a dance contest called for audience participation in learning "Dem Bow," a type of dance that incorporates hip-hop with reggaeton music.

Carol Licardo, a senior majoring in economics, performed at the show. She said she practiced daily for almost a month but not without problems.

"When you have to perform with other people and you set a time to meet with each other to actually practice the performance, some cannot go and sometimes you cannot go because everyone is occupied with school," Licardo said.

Christian Orr, president of the International Student Council, said the event brought students together from a number of different countries.

"I think the Dominicans have done a fabulous job in fostering an intercultural connectivity," he said.

Raquel Rosario Sanchez, a senior majoring in international studies, said the event alleviated homesickness she has experienced.

"(Being) surrounded by friends and people who know that you're Dominican, appreciate that you are Dominican and people who want to know more about you, makes me feel more welcomed," she said. "The fact that you're eating Dominican food, listening to Dominican music, it just makes me feel so much better."

The name "Areito" is derived from an indigenous dance performed in celebration of the Dominican Republic Independence Day on Feb. 27.

Santos said "Areito" began in 2008 when a few Dominican students decided to celebrate the holiday. At that time, Haiti, its neighboring country, had been through multiple hurricanes, so the students decided to turn "Areito" into a fundraising event. Since then, Areito has been held to raise funds for various causes affecting the nation, she said.

Tickets for the show in the TSC Ballroom were $12 for adults and $5 for children, and a portion of the proceeds went to Education Without Borders, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting education as a human right. During the event, a video showing poverty in Dominican Republic was presented.

Santos said reform efforts are being made in Dominican Republic. Citizens are demanding that at least 4 percent of public funds go toward education.

"We just wanted to make people aware that yes, this is a fun night, but (attendees) are also making a difference for kids in our public schools," Santos said. "We have been blessed to be given a full-ride scholarship to come here, but there are kids, adolescents and youths that don't have the opportunity to go to school."

Nealy 400 people attended "Arieto," which ended with audience members on their feet, dancing to a final musical performance.12

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