Variety Show Packs Sanders

Blair Underwood hosts popular Cultural Rhythms celebration

Cultural Rhythms
Lauren S. Hirshon

University President LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS and Dean of the College HARRY R. LEWIS '68 present host BLAIR UNDERWOOD with a plaque at last Saturday's Cultural Rhythms.

Twirling umbrellas, Chinese yo-yos, ‘Bhangra’ cries and guest host Blair Underwood were featured before a packed Sanders Theater Saturday in the 17th annual Cultural Rhythms show.

While Underwood—who was presented with the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations Artist of the Year Award—hosted the show with much panache, Harvard’s admistrators did not fare as well on stage.

Weeks after a controversy involving the Afro-American studies department led University President Lawrence H. Summers to issue a statement affirming his support for diversity, Summers reiterated his commitment to diversity at Saturday’s show—to a luke-warm response.

While on stage, Summers said he thinks diversity, including shows like Cultural Rhythms, make Harvard “a better place.”

But some students and observers said they were unimpressed by his appearance at the event.

“I thought he seemed uncomfortable speaking about something of that nature,” said Justin H. Alexander ’03, treasurer of the Black Men’s Forum.

A casually dressed Summers was not the only administrator whose stage presence was arguably less than smooth.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 described Underwood as “a humanitarian, an actor and a very good-looking guy,” then addressed him as “Brian Underwood”—a mistake that drew laughs and snickers from the crowd.

But Underwood eased the tension over Lewis’ slip, revealing that he has also been called “Blair Underwear.”

“[Underwood] was very nice about it,” Lewis wrote in an e-mail.

“And Dr. [S. Allen] Counter [the director of the Foundation] kindly bailed me out too—recalling that he had introduced Halle Berry as ‘Hairy Belly’!”

Underwood, formerly of TV’s “L.A. Law,” was selected in 2000 by People Magazine as one of the world’s 50 most beautiful people. He will star opposite Julia Roberts in an upcoming movie entitled Full Frontal—an announcement that drew many laughs from the audience.

“You guys have dirty minds,” Underwood joked.

The event at Sanders Theater showcased performances by a total of 25 student cultural groups spread over two shows, with the first—sold-out well in advance—hosted by Underwood.

Participants included the Asian-American Dance Troupe, Fuerza Latina and Phillipine Forum.

Mindy M. Chen ’02, who performed as part of the Spoken Word Society, described her performance as a “release.”