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Arabic Culture Night: More than just dancing

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Friday, April 1, 2011

The Arabic Culture Night returns to Notre Dame for its fourth year tonight, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. More than 40 students from the department have worked tirelessly to prepare this very special event and are ready to share their hard work.


“Arabic Culture Night is a unique opportunity to engage and explore culture,” says producer Ghada Bualuan, director of Undergraduate Studies, Arabic & Mediterranean Middle East Studies. “It is a way to enrich students’ understanding of Arabic and Middle Eastern history and heritage through music, literature and theater. It symbolically unites us all, students and audience, with an interrupted centuries-old Arabic Culture.”


Arabic culture will be on stage in almost every imaginable art form. From dancing to poetry reading, the night promises to have something for everyone. Although all the material used is originally from the Middle East, the program is easily relatable. Invigorating music, profound readings and energetic dancing will appeal not only to students but also to audiences of all ages. The English translations help, too.


Senior Jonathan Liedl, president of The Arabic Club and chair of the Arabic Culture Night Committee, calls this night “the capstone event of [his and his peers’] Arabic careers here at Notre Dame.”


“It’s great to reflect on just how far we’ve come,” he says. “Additionally, this is the Arabic Club’s inaugural year on campus. And also, it really is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for all the Arabic faculty, especially Ghada Bualuan and her husband Ramzi.”


The event is quite a capstone with a rich variety of acts and talents. Ben Gavel, a senior Arabic student, will read poetry from revolutionary Tunis, “The Will of Life” and “To the Tyrants of the World.”


Other Arabic students, Molly Herber, Ian Montijo, Victoria Braga and Joe Dufour will recite, in two parts, “Children’s Heaven,” a short story from Naguib Mahfouz, a Nobel Laureate from Egypt.


Students have also prepared a comedy play, “The Dream Bistro.” It tells the story of the hilarity that ensues when an arrogant playboy attempts to go on a date with two different girls at the same restaurant. Liedl promises good, clean comedy, with the slapstick aspect taken quite literally.


In addition to these performances and a short film produced by faculty and students, Arabic Culture Night will also feature premiere student artists performing various music and dance acts. The night will include a song, “Oh! your Love, Laure,” performed by Tyler Harmsen and Sarah Kiningham, as well as a violin performance by Mat Madonia.


Dance acts will range from Oriental dancing to Dabke, forms of folkloric Lebanese dances. Students have been preparing for their rhythmic debut, giving their time, talent and passion freely. The dances will also feature typical Arabic costume, adding to the beauty of the dance.


Bualuan and Liedl encourage students of all majors and backgrounds to come experience this unique cultural event. Liedl came to Notre Dame with a Spanish background, but found himself drawn to the exotic and exciting language and culture of the Middle East. Even if students are happily content in their major, he still encourages them to attend.


“[This night] helps us to realize that Arabic is more than just a language we learn from textbooks, it’s the voice of an entire culture and people … Everyone should come out to learn a little more about the people and culture of a misunderstood, but vital part of today’s world.”