One Sky, One World, I-Night
by Savannah Graziano
Lights dim, silence. Dancers rush to their spots, waiting for the curtains to open and their music to start. It is pitch black behind the curtain, tense but calm. Everyone is ready. Three, two, one. The curtains start to open, the lights turn on, and the music starts.
International Night, or I-Night, is a long anticipated culmination of months of hard work by a large portion of Northside's student body. Hundreds of students in more than 26 groups auditioned, choreographed, and practiced to showcase their talents and to represent a wide variety of cultures such as Korea, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia, Greece and many more. I-Night is a non-stop journey that was hosted by Asian Club and emceed by Kristina Raguay, Adv. 905. Raguay, one of the three emcees for I-Day, took on the task of emceeing both I-Nights on her own. “It was really nerve wracking before getting on stage because I had to write my own script and perform in front of the school and two different audiences,” she said. “But, I am an actor so of course when I am on stage it all goes away and it is a piece of cake. Of course I messed up a few times but nobody is perfect, and it really helped when the audiences were lit and responsive. Overall, it was really fun and a great experience.” She is not alone in this sentiment, as various dancers credited the audience for their energy and thanked everyone who attended for their respect and hype.
Much of the crowd’s energy was to be expected when tickets sold faster than hotcakes. Many people had to be turned away at the door and early-sales were quickly maxed out, even with every dancer limited in the number of tickets they were able to purchase. The popularity of I-Night is unparalleled by any other school event. While this can be attributed to the limited number of shows and large number of student dancers, it also speaks to the stellar performances by the dancers. Evidence of this can be found in the high student turn-out, despite the previous I-Day showcase. Those who came to support friends and family members formed a line at the door over an hour before the show started, as a buzz of excitement flowed through the air, along with stress emanating from those trying to purchase one of the 30 tickets sold at the door.
At the end of the day, the dancers are the heart and soul of I-Night. Sara Muttar, Adv. 907, put I-Night into perfect perspective when she said, “It was really interesting because when you are sitting in the crowd, you are looking at the final results, but when you are performing, you get to see all the backstage and the effort that goes into the time on stage for each group.” And work they did. In the weeks leading up to I-Night, groups could be spotted at all hours of the day in all areas of the school. Hypnotik captain and Martial Arts co-captain Nicole Heflin, Adv. 803, talked about the hours of practice put into the Hypnotik performance. “We worked really hard, practicing five hours the day before, staying at school till 8. In the end, it was really nice and we pulled off a good show.” Unashamedly, she said, “Hypnotik was the best and Martial Arts was also tied for best performance.” This is the pride associated with every dance captain and is very infectious. Most everyone who participates in I-Night feels a strong attachment to their dance. “This year was my third year being in I-Night and my second year on Ohana,” Llorenz Meliton, Adv. 903, said. “Being in I-Night is always a really fun and amazing experience. I loved spending time with my group members and being able to celebrate Hawaiian culture on stage with such a large audience. Dancing in I-Night is one of my favorite things to do and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it this year.” Amulya Aluru, Adv. 906, added to this by saying, “I am captain of Indian Dance. I’ve been on the team since my freshman year, and every I-Night I've been a part of has been exhilarating and so rewarding. Although scheduling and making sure dancers were where they needed to be was tough, I am so incredibly proud of the team and all the dancers in I-Night.”
Even new groups were able to get in the spirit of the night and be successful in their performance. Nina Kritikos, Adv. 801, who started Greek dance this year, along with Anastasia Luridas, Adv. 810, and Dino Konstantinidis, Adv. 908, said of her experience, “I think that for the first year as a new dance, it was really meaningful to be a part of such a fun and beautiful celebration we have at Northside. It was a little intimidating to start up as an underdog among such talented dance groups, but we really came together and at the end of the day, it is really about showcasing and appreciating cultures from around the world.”
Beyond the dancers, I-Night could not have happened without the dedication and hard work of the entire Asian Club Board. Co-president Mindren Lu, Adv. 810, said, "With so many dancers in so many different dances, planning I-Day and I-Night is always quite the challenge, but thanks to the hard work of everyone on the Asian Club board, it all turned out successfully. While this was my third year as an event organizer, it was actually my first time performing, which made my last I-Night even sweeter."
In addition, the work of the Stage Crew members Hillary Nguyen, Adv. 808, Stephanie Rodriguez, Adv. 807, Justin Ziegelmueller, Adv. 804, Anna Questel, Adv. 810, and Bella Patel, Adv. 803, allowed for a smoothly run show with high quality lights and sounds.
I-Night is not without its flaws, though. This year, administration made a controversial, but important decision to ban dancers from going into the auditorium to watch the other dances. Historically, dancers were allowed to stand by the doors, along the sides of the auditorium, or sit in any free seat they could find. This year, due to fire safety concerns, administration put a stop to this behavior. The Asian Club board sought to calm upset dancers by setting up a livestream that allowed them to watch the happenings of the auditorium from the cafeteria. Carina Peng, Adv. 902, said that the livestream is something she saw successfully implemented by other high schools such as the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, and believed it to be just as successful at Northside.
The I-Night dances were stunning exhibitions of the talent and culture within the Northside community. Those who participated were beyond dedicated to their group (or groups) and were excited to uphold this long standing Northside tradition. This multifaceted event continues to bring joy to all who watch, perform, and organize one of the most successful and anticipated events at the school.