Gala 2023: Our Journey


Photos courtesy of Natalie Hoang (@nhoang.jpeg on Instagram)

This year’s International Gala was a night to remember! The line to get in was so long it went from the Kneller to JC; the building was packed and the crowd was lively; the excitement was through the roof! There wasn’t a dull moment in the Kneller that night. The theme this year was Our Journey, emphasizing the movement of peoples and cultures throughout history as well as celebrating the vast cultural diversity in the United States.

The Hosts

Gala 2023 was hosted by four fantastic Clarkies; Zainab Cheema, Alec Hoffman, MiKayla Dotson, and Evelyn Ward. They livened up the crowd and were funny and engaging with the audience. They even engaged with University President David Fithian – who was sat in the front row – in witty banter about the notorious instability of Clark’s Wi-Fi, and about chicken tinga, the beloved Bistro delicacy among Clarkies. 

Alec Hoffman committed to the bit and “meow”-ed multiple times upon the stage, putting up his hands as if they were ears and kicking one foot into the air each time. Individuals within the crowd, including this reporter, made sure to meow back in solidarity and support.

MiKayla Dotson one-upped every award show with the ultimate Clark selfie with the audience from the stage!


Gala performances showcase traditional and culturally significant dances and music, often a mashup across time of old and new, traditional and modern. This year’s choreographers gave it their all. There was so much heart put into every number from top to bottom and the dancers put all their energy into each routine.

The first performance of the night was Japan with a high-energy number choreographed by Tetsu Furuhashi with Yu Kosaka as the main contact. They used three songs, one being “Zenzenzense” by RADWIMPS from the movie Your Name (which definitely got me pumped up). They combined modern J-Pop and traditional music as well as modern and traditional dance styles. Yellow handheld lights were used in the darkness for the second dance, which was extremely cool and creative.

Ibeth Alvarracin represented Ecuador with a beautiful and passionate rendition of “No Me Queda Más” by Selena. The entire audience grooved to the music and the crowd lit up with swaying cell phone lights, so much so that you can see the reflections on the live broadcast. The lights from the audience members, Ibeth’s rich vocals, and the sparkle of her dress made for a magical moment.

This was the first year El Salvador has had a dance at Gala! The official choreographer was Gianfranco Cornejo Gizzi, a current sophomore who was born and raised in El Salvador. He emphasized that the choreography was a combination of ideas from everyone involved in a heartwarming speech before the dance, emphasizing how his group bonded while preparing for Gala. The costumes were a crisp white and cobalt blue, echoing the flag of El Salvador. They had four dance numbers, incorporating the styles of cumbia, reggaeton and bachata with modern influences as well.

This was also the first performance from Afro-America at Gala, choreographed by Glory Phipps and Leyla Knight. They were the final performance of the night, and they made sure that Gala went out with a bang! Within their pre-performance speech, they emphasized that this performance represented the resilience, joy, visibility and connection within the Black community. They added that it is the responsibility of everyone to support and uplift African Americans in the Clark community and beyond. The dance combined majorette and step, two dance styles which originated in African American communities, or more specifically within the culture at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Fashion Show

Traditional cultural garments are worn all night, but the fashion show allows for a fuller admiration of the designs. Here are some of the stunning looks from that night.

The importance of Gala

The Clark student body looks forward to Gala year after year as a night of vibrant and energetic music and dance performances, but it is also so much more than that. Gala is an opportunity for students to share their culture and take pride in where they are from. This is vital to creating a campus where all identities and backgrounds are not only respected but appreciated and admired as well. The International Students’ Association did a fantastic job this year, and I can’t wait for Gala 2024!