By MICHAEL-SHAWN DUGARRather than having one event to add a splash of culture to the city of Pullman, Washington State University Performing Arts is teaming up with neighboring arts organizations to present what amounts to a three-day waterfall of artistic expression.
Beginning this evening and continuing through Saturday night is the second annual Humanitas Festival, a celebration of world arts featuring a number of events across the Pullman campus.
Everything from Chinese, Taiwanese, Latin-American, Native American and African-American music, dances and teachings will be represented throughout the festival.
After what was deemed a successful inaugural event last year, the decision to bring the festival back was an easy one, said Gail Siegel, WSU Performing Arts director.
“What we envisioned it to become was not a place-bound event that just takes place on the WSU campus,” Siegel said. “We envision, as we grow the festival, that it becomes an event that encompasses the community, where we have businesses participate, where we have the city of Pullman participating.”
Last year the musical duo of Okaidja & Shokoto was among the more popular events, along with Ache & Brasil in Beasley Coliseum. This year’s festival starts today in Wadleigh Theatre with an introduction to Chinese and Taiwanese cultures by way of a Tai Chi workshop led by Mia Hsieh, choreographer and vocalist in A Moving Sound, a dance group that fuses pop and traditional Chinese music.
A Moving Sound will take the stage at 7 p.m. for a performance Friday at Jones Theatre in Daggy Hall. A third and final workshop will be held Saturday afternoon in Wadleigh by the Mentor Artists Playwrights Project.
The first performance of the festival belongs to Step Afrika!, an African-American dance company formed to educate and motivate young people through the art of stepping. The performance begins at 7:30 tonight in Beasley Coliseum.
“I think it’s really relevant to students and the students are going to really like it,” said Angel Nava, arts coordinator for Student Involvement.
Step Afrika! is returning to the Palouse after being well received by the students when they performed in Pullman just a couple years ago, Nava said.
“Students from all backgrounds will be blown away by what they can do — they’re pretty cool,” Nava said.
Siegel said the importance of the festival can be traced back to the definition of its title: Humanitas, which means humanity, passion and kindness — three things her organization is looking to instill in the students as well as the community through educational workshops and concerts. A Moving Sound will hold its second workshop of the festival Friday morning in Uniontown.
“It’s not just the performances, there are many other participatory opportunities,” Siegel said.
Friday night’s finale is an international Up All Night with free food, a diversity trivia session and an area for origami making.
The two main events Saturday are a pair of concerts. The Washington Idaho Symphony will perform at 3 p.m. in Jones Theater, followed by the capstone concert of festival: Sweet Honey in the Rock at 7:30 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum.
The Washington Idaho Symphony will play Latin American music, while Sweet Honey in the Rock, a Grammy-nominated a cappella ensemble, combines several genres in its performance.
“They refer to the group as ‘her,’ and ‘she’ sings the voice of peace — a message of peace, harmony and education,” Siegel said. “If you think of the name of the festival, it makes sense to have a group like Sweet Honey in the Rock, because we’re talking about world music and they sing across the genres of gospel, jazz, R&B, hip hop — they bring all of those to influences. The message they bring with it is so important.”
Siegel encourages everyone to attend as many events as possible, not just those rooted in the same background with which they identify. While it’s nice to embrace your own culture, the purpose of the festival is for everyone to branch out, she said.
“It’s important to experience cultures that you may not have knowledge of and cultures that may feel different from you and then when you come out of it you go, ‘Well, that culture really isn’t that different from my own culture,’ ” she said. “Then you start to develop an understanding that we are all people, we all have beating hearts, we all have brains in our heads, we are all pretty much on this planet together.”
A full Humanitas Festival schedule can found at performingarts.wsu.edu/humanitas/2014.
IF YOU GO
Step Afrika!, 7:30 p.m. at Beasley Coliseum; Admission: Free
Youth Outreach, 10 a.m. at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown; Admission: Free
A Moving Sound, 7:30 p.m., Jones Theatre; Admission: Free
MAPP Young Native Playwrights Initiative, 12:30–2 p.m., Wadleigh Theatre; Admission: Free
Washington Idaho Symphony, 3 p.m., Jones Theatre; Admission: Adults $25, students $15, 12 and under) $10, free to WSU Students
Sweet Honey in the Rock, 7:30 p.m., Beasley Coliseum; Admission: Adults $20, WSU Alumni Association Members $17, seniors $16 , non-WSU students & youth $10, free to WSU Students