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Dancing for a Difference

By Kathryn Novelli
The sounds of strings and chirping birds captivates VCU’s ballroom. The screen displays sweeping panoramic views of Afghan mountains as the sun illuminates the clouds, then a town, then the people in it. A little boy runs through an orchard, a woman winds thread into skeins, women weave skeins into rugs. A soldier holds his gun as a tear rolls down his cheek. Another man feeds birds outside a mosque. Everything is bright and colorful following the journey through Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif. The credits roll as giggling children are silhouetted flying a kite as day becomes night. “Afghanistan – touch down in flight” was created by Salome and Lukus Augustin as a tribute to a friend who was shot dead in Kabul. The audience is silently fixated on the film.

On Friday November 6, 2015, Afghan Student Association at VCU held A Night in Afghanistan raising over $2,000 for Aid Afghanistan for Education with a celebration of Afghan culture.

AAE Digital Media Specialist, Miranda Cleland came from Washington D.C. for the event. Cleland explained AAE’s mission to create and maintain quality, accelerated, and state approved educational facilities for people deprived of educational opportunities due to the impacts of war in Afghanistan. Cleland urged community action and cited education as a means of empowering people and alleviating poverty in the nation. Cleland appealed “If any of you believe in Afghanistan as much as we do, consider this your formal invitation to join us.”

ASO’s President Aneil Tawakalzada and Vice President Nadia Abdulghafoor acted as M.C.s, introducing the night’s entertainment. The first event was a fashion show, where ASO members strutted across the stage modeling traditional, colorful Afghan dresses; each model received well-deserved applause. The next act was a boisterous tabla performance by an Arab student and friend of ASO. The audience clapped in time, always keeping up with the skillfully executed tempo changes.  The audience was then served a dinner of nan, sabzi, chickpeas, quabili palau, spicy chatni sauce, and lamb and chicken kababs, dished out by the executive board of ASO. Guests dined at communal tables, bonding over the incredible performances.

After dinner, two Pakistani students performed Bollywood duets after explaining Afghanistan and Pakistan’s shared cultural love of Bollywood films and music. Their harmonies inspired a sense of nostalgia or curiosity for audience members enthused by the performance. Then, an ASO member played guitar while a friend played violin, creating an energetic fusion of eastern and western styles that intrigued and excited the audience who clamored for an encore. ASO’s dance group as performed the grand finale. Tawakalzada explained the importance of dance in Afghan culture. The passionate, exuberant, traditional dances enthralled the audience inspiring massive applause as the dancers graciously bowed to their guests. Tawakalzada thanked the guests for their time and contributions to AAE, adding that “Afghanistan is a beautiful but misunderstood country, lost over three decades of war… With your help, we can make a difference in Afghanistan and the world.”

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