With the sun setting and audience members yet to arrive, Thorne Auditorium bustled with Nigerian dancers, poets, and American rock bands, just a few of the acts in this year’s Fusion 2012 lineup. Once performers took their places backstage, the annual multicultural talent and fashion show began with the lyrics of poet Saul Williams, as delivered by first-year student Stanley Gutiontov.
The poem was the start of a journey around the globe, hosted by members of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Class of 2015, to raise money for various health clinics throughout Chicago. Held this year on Saturday, March 10, Fusion is an annual event to raise cultural awareness through song, dance, and artistic performances that highlight the diversity of the medical school’s student body.
“I think we are very fortunate to go to a school that attracts people that have such diverse backgrounds,” said Ashley Aaroe, a first-year student. “Getting a chance to celebrate that is a lot of fun.”
Emcee Paul Bottone, a third-year student, arrived on stage in a proper tuxedo before quickly changing, á la celebrity hosts, into a pair of blue jeans and later a traditional Nigerian Isiagu, all before intermission.
By the time the Bhangra group took to the stage following a vocal performance by Docapella, Feinberg’s acapella group, the crowd’s excitement had been steadily rising. The dance number, native to the Punjab region of Pakistan and India, had the audience clapping along as the energetic group danced barefoot on stage.
Those inside Thorne were then transported 10,000 miles, enjoying the traditional Igbo dance style of Nigeria, before landing in Latin America for a little salsa. Formed two years ago by a pair of future medical school graduates, the five pairs of Feinberg Salseros brought a little heat to the stage.
“We got to see everything from poetry to a rock concert,” first-year student Krishna Bandi said. “Fusion is a chance for us to learn about all of the different people and cultures represented at our school. We have a diverse group of really talented students.”
Before a brief intermission and the start of Act II with a cultural fashion show, band Rum Lotus took to the stage to perform a rock version of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away.” Lead singer, guitarist, and first-year student Varun Krishnan spent much of the performance jumping in the air, even hopping off it to provide a close-up for the front row. He even slipped in a few lyrical changes in recognition of his fellow first-year students in the crowd.
Andres Camacho and the band Heart and Bone, all first-year students, ended the fun-filled evening, as performers from throughout the night danced on stage. The renditions of a Jimi Hendrix song and rock-rap are a part of music history for Camacho.
“I wanted to examine the changing role of race and music in American popular music,” the musician, who started playing the violin when he was seven, said. “A good starting point is Jimi Hendrix, who brought the world of blues to a wider, more diverse audience.”
Proceeds from this year’s show went to five student organizations: the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, Chinatown Clinic, New Life Volunteering Society, South Asian Medical Student Association, and the Student National Medical Association. These clinics and charities provide health-related services to underserved populations across Chicago. They also offer Feinberg students invaluable opportunities to gain experience in healthcare delivery.
“I think aside from getting a chance to see our talented classmates perform, we get a chance to give back to the health clinics where we go to engage with the community, learn about health care disparities, and also practice our physical exam skills,” Aaroe said. “Making sure these clinics can keep running and that we can keep putting on health fairs is really important.”
Fusion 2012 was coordinated by a first-year student board of directors that included: Phoebe Arbogast, Ashley Aaroe, Terence Choy, Amita Goyal, Anshika Kaushik, Andrew Lehr, Riti Mahadevia, Katherine Sengoba, Tara Sulyman, and Rushi Talati.
“There is always a lot of work involved with a production like this,” Lehr said. “The fact that the board is really involved and that there are a lot of people putting this together means we can split up tasks so that everyone is focused in on one thing, and we can really put together a great show.”
For a photo gallery of images from Fusion 2012, click here.