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On Saturday, April 23, students made the trek across the Charles River to the Bright-Landry Hockey Center to witness what at this point is more lore than anything else: the first live Eleganza performance since 2019.
Originally founded by members of Harvard’s Black C.A.S.T — a student-run organization whose primary purpose is stimulating interest in and support of Black theater on campus — Eleganza was meant to share that culture through a kind of performance that the University had never seen before, incorporating music, dance, and fashion into the show. This year’s theme, “The Revolution,” draws on those founding principals and the idea of Afrofuturism to examine marginalized realities.
Elizabeth Ogolo ’24, who modeled in an act of the show titled “Exodus: Movement of Our People,” spoke about the invaluable experience of finding community with others working on the show, especially the Harvard student-led Nigerian dance troupe Omo Naija.
“It's the people that were in Eleganza and in Omo Naija that really held me up whether they knew it or not, and encouraged me whether they knew it or not, and inspired me whether they knew it or not,” Ogolo said. “I wouldn't have traded it for the world.”
When preparing for the performance, Ogolo said that the practice spaces used not only served the purpose of learning and perfecting the dances for the show, but also fostered a space to build one another up and created a unique sense of belonging.
“The people that you look up to are also making sure that you too are uplifted. That's a space that you can't find everywhere on campus sometimes so I'm really grateful for it,” Ogolo said. “That's family.”
Ogolo also spoke to the excitement of finally being on stage performing in front of such a large audience after practicing and preparing for so long.
“This is what we've been preparing for for weeks and days and this is it and looking at all those faces. It was just exhilarating and exhausting,” she said.
Onyeka R. Agwu ’24, the director of Ogolo’s scene, explained how she decided to incorporate old and new school Hip-Hop music alongside Afrobeats in order to exemplify the depth and breadth of the Black experience.
“I decided that everything I did, I wanted it to be something that came from my heart,” she said.
Agwu added that she was confident people would like her choreography work because it’s “something that was original to me.”
“That was my favorite part of it all — just creating and then being able to share it with others,” she said.
Speaking to what makes Eleganza unique in comparison to other on-campus dance troupes, Liliana C. Price ’25, who performed in a scene titled “Food for Thot,” said that Eleganza allowed dancers to transcend their allegiances to other groups. “There's a lot of people that hold tight to their companies and different styles, but Eleganza kind of brings together all the styles and all the companies,” she said.
For Ogolo, the show represented a huge milestone for how far she’d come in her personal journey. “I was just so grateful to even have the opportunity to be on stage knowing where I was six months prior — just not even being being able to get out of bed, let alone bust a move,” she said.
When thinking about Eleganza in the years to come, Price was nothing but optimistic about its potential.
“Just going from here, next year can really only go up in my opinion,” she said.
For many like Ogolo, the show’s very existence and survival are much more than just a performance, but something positive outside of their classes that they came to love.
“Being a part of Eleganza and, of course, Omo Naija as well probably saved me this semester,” Ogolo said. “It was my refuge, you know, and I am forever grateful for that.”
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