“Our Heritage” is the theme for the 30th annual Ethnos production at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4-5 at the newly renovated Boone Family Theatre, and the show is benefiting from a $1,500 Hearts for the Arts grant from the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council for the first time this year. Tickets are still available for the performances.
In 1992, three years after the inception of the International Students’ Association, the Culture Show was created to showcase different cultural groups at Abilene Christian University. Now called Ethnos, the showcase lives on for ISA 30 years later. Veronica Summers, international student services specialist at ACU, said ISA is a “home away from home” for many students, and the Ethnos production has connected people from many cultures in a unique way.
“Anyone who has ever been a part of Ethnos will probably tell you that it was one of the highlights of their college experience,” Summers said. “As someone who has been involved in the show for 13 years, Ethnos has been one of the key influences that has grown in me a love and appreciation for different cultures.”
Students are encouraged to highlight the beauty and uniqueness of their home culture through dances, songs and other acts. The theme varies each year with this year’s theme being “Our Heritage” to represent the varied backgrounds of the more than 120 members of the organization.
“Ultimately we believe this show portrays who we are and all the diversity that we carry in ourselves,” said Claudia Panta Santos, ISA president and senior music and theatre major from Lima, Peru. “We want everyone, not only international students, to embrace their culture, what makes them special and unique.”
Ethnos has expanded to include the Abilene community as well, with organizations such as the International Rescue Committee youth group, a Tahitian dance group from Dyess Air Force Base, Ballet Folklorico del Big Country and the U.S. Philippines Friendship Organization dance group participating.
“The expansion of Ethnos to our Abilene communities has been a game changer,” Santos said. “Not only in making our show more special and inclusive but specifically for our international students, this has helped them see that even though they are in a different country, they are not alone. ISA and Ethnos make Abilene feel a bit more like home.”
Numbers have continued to rise for the show with 100 performers from 15 to 20 different countries and 500 to 800 attendees spread between two shows each year. Ethnos is ISA’s largest event of the fall and is one of the largest student productions on campus. This year’s show will feature 17 acts, four of which are from cultural groups in Abilene.
“Over the last 30 years, this culture show has not only given the ACU and Abilene communities a glimpse of the uniqueness and beauty of diversity, but for the performers themselves, Ethnos has given our international students an opportunity to embrace and share their culture in a very unique way,” Summers said. “They’re building relationships while sharing a very significant part of themselves with others. People get to see the world under one roof, but more importantly, they get to see people of all backgrounds coming together in unity for the purpose of celebrating the rich diversity within our own backyard.”
This year for the first time, Ethnos received a $1,500 Hearts for the Arts grant from the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council. The grant and other funding will be spent on production expenses and help with ISA events throughout the year.
“Having the financial support of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council is a significant achievement,” Summers said. “Not only because it allows us to put on a great show, but also because of how it communicates value to what we are trying to accomplish through Ethnos. It’s encouraging to know that the ACAC sees Ethnos as something worth its investment and something that it believes benefits the greater Abilene community.”
Learn more about ACU’s international student organizations.
— Connor Mullins
Oct. 31, 2022