Carnaval 2021: “Dreams” is an interesting idea with lackluster execution
Each year, the Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) puts on Carnaval, an entirely student-run cultural show that uses a skit and numerous styles of dance to showcase Latin American traditions. This year’s Carnaval, entitled “Dreams,” scrutinizes the trope of the American Dream and how it isn’t always feasible for people of marginalized identities.
The skit follows freshman Guinter Dame Vogg who, struggling to complete an assignment on the American Dream, asks freshman Isabel Huesa to help him out. Throughout the course of the show, they read poetry and short stories and watch dances that relate the concept to the Latin American experience.
The skit was interspersed with dances of a multitude of genres; a highlight of the show was the Folklorico dance, choreographed by Sienna Ruiz and Michelle Pacheco and performed by Qiqi Chen, Ted Flaherty and Isabelle Palmer. It was beautiful to watch the dancers’ technical precision—both in their footwork and the way Palmer and Chen moved their dresses—and I enjoyed the airy instrumental that accompanied it. Additionally, the dance seemed to be performed in Forest Park, a rare moment when COVID restrictions worked in the production’s advantage.
In addition to newly choreographed pieces, the show also included four dances from past Carnavals. While the dances were very well done and enjoyable to watch, they felt largely out of place in the show. Instead of adding to the broader narrative, they just felt like an unoriginal, uninspired way to lengthen the show in a climate where choreographing more new numbers wasn’t as feasible.
At one point, the show took an interview-like format, where three panelists—seniors Alitzel Yepiz and Andrea Chambers and junior Esteban Ortiz—were asked about what the American Dream means to them and what they would change about Latinidad if they could. One of the show’s most poignant moments came when Yepiz explained that although the narrative of the American Dream implies that everyone in the United States has an equal opportunity to succeed, that theory simply is not the truth of our country. She stated, “I know that my parents came to the United States following that idea, and I to this day am still fighting for it.”
My least favorite part of the show was when the panelists were asked “Have you ever been a victim of racism and/or racial discrimination?” While they were told that they didn’t have to share if they didn’t want to, the fact of the matter is that nearly all people of color have experienced racism on numerous levels at some point, and this question just felt like a shallow attempt at depth that failed to interrogate the nuances of how different marginalized people experience racism.
After the panel, Dame Vogg and Huesa continued working on the project, and while there were moments that stand out, like Huesa’s reading of a short story by Dominican-American novelist Julia Alvarez, the overall theme of the show felt unfinished and superficial. I felt as if the writers chose broadness over depth, which made “Dreams” resonate much less than it could have. I knew the show was about the Latin American experience and the American Dream, but I didn’t come away from it having learned much more than that.