Cultural Mosaic shatters ‘boxed’ thinking

Jismey, a UTSC student, performs a traditional South Asian dance at the school’s Cultural Mosaic talent show. The event featured 13 acts and took place on Feb. 28.André Vashist appeared on stage with his upper body trapped in a green-coloured box.

For him to get out of that box, the event’s spectators had to yell the word ‘kaboom’ as loud as possible.

Vashist, 22, was able to shatter the box after three intense roars from the audience.

‘Outside the Box’ is the new concept that seized centre stage at the 18th annual Cultural Mosaic talent show. The mid-sized event on Feb. 28 was a celebration of culture that featured University of Toronto at Scarborough student performers.

“The ‘box’ tonight is our fears,” Vashist said. “What’s really restricting is fearing yourself and others. We need to have more confidence that we can do what we want to do properly and with integrity.”

There were 20 performers who came to audition for the show, but the audience only saw 13 acts including various vocal pieces, a couple of traditional South Asian dances and even a comedy routine.

Vashist, one of the two MCs at this year’s event, said the show brings together students of diverse cultural backgrounds and allows exposure to the campus’ different facets in a unified way.

“‘Outside the Box’ means to stop restricting yourself. We let many things in life hold us back,” said Vashist, a fourth-year UTSC student majoring in integrative biology and cultural anthropology. “It’s not about focusing on what’s holding us back, but on what we can accomplish.”

The Mosaic’s co-ordinator, Natalie Venalainen, 19, coined the event’s fresh theme.

“I thought ‘Outside the Box’ would grab people’s attention more. I just wanted a different name for [the event] so that anyone performing can fit in,” said Venalainen, a second-year student at UTSC majoring in new media studies and art history.

Even though a lot of hard work was put it, Kyle Prescod, 20, vice-president of campus life, said it was all worth it when seeing the final product.

“To me, ‘Outside the Box’ means to look beyond your limits, and to open your mind to new experiences and ideas,” said Prescod, who is in his third year at UTSC studying political science and psychology.

Although Venalainen was confident about the show’s new theme, Vashist said he was disappointed by the mediocre turnout. Less than half of the 250 seats available were filled.

“Of course I wish more people came,” Vashist said. “Here, people see things they’ve never seen before, and they enjoy it.”

The audience’s thunderous applause throughout the three-hour long event was obvious proof that the Cultural Mosaic was a hit. But Vashist had no doubts about the show’s ability to please the spectators. His only concern was scale.

“These small events are all part of the process of a bigger picture,” he said. “But the bigger picture, to me, still doesn’t feel big enough. I want it to encompass more people — a vision that really symbolizes and unifies us as a people.”