Shining StARS of the Campus Center


A martial artist demonstrates the use of the bo in a kata, or fighting exercise.

MiMi Yeh

April 2, 2004 was a night to remember for anyone celebrating the opening of the new $75 million, all-inclusive Campus Center that houses student organizations, advising, and administrators for ready, one-stop shopping. This evening marked the highlight of a weeklong series of events to celebrate what the new building symbolizes-a sense of style and finally the convenience of bringing the various departments on campus together. With dancing, music, Vegas fantasies, and a live DJ from 94.5 FM, there were three floors worth of entertainment catering to every possible interest of everyone in attendance. The flavors of music were as numerous as the tables of food: steel drums, Latin, reggae, rock, hip-hop, and salsa.

The Branches Steel Band, made up entirely of row upon row of steel drums, brought out the spirit of listeners as they listened to Caribbean rhythm renditions of “Dancing Queen” and Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony.” Whether it was pop or classical, the audience members swayed to the beat of familiar tunes sung in an unfamiliar but irresistible and enjoyable manner.

Meanwhile, the opportunity for some ready cash was not to be passed up during the “Dash for Dollars,” run by Beacon Fitness Center Director Chris Fitzgerald. Entrants were invited to submit their names that would later be drawn out of a hat. Then, the lucky winner would be put in a booth with dollar bills blowing about and the chance to grab as many as possible. Down the hall from “Dash for Dollars,” attendees had the chance to take lessons in either ballroom or salsa dancing.

In the University Room, people were handed a $1200 chip bank to play craps, black jack, and roulette. There was even a game I’d never even heard of called Chuck-a-Luck, a lottery-like diversion where gamblers bet on numbers and, depending on what numbers come out of the wire hourglass-shaped cage, they can take odds ranging from 1-to-1 to 3-to-1, depending on how many numbers they choose to bet on. Students could cash in their chips for raffle tickets that were to be drawn later in the evening.

It was in the ballroom where many of the highlights of the evening took place. With a spectacular view of the JFK Library and State Archives, the dim light streaming in from floor-to-ceiling windows provided the only real illumination and gave the room an unearthly feel. Student Trustee Fritz Hyppolite welcomed the crowd with a few words stating how proud he was of the diversity of personalities at UMass Boston.

Following Hyppolite’s speech was the Soul Source Dance band who brought out not only the adults on the dance floor but the children as well. Their rousing style of reggae music filled the halls and livened up the audience, providing an upbeat change of pace when the DJs from 94.5 FM took a break from spinning radio hits.

An Asian martial arts troupe offered a variety of katas, or traditionally choreographed combat routines, using empty hands, staffs, and swords. Most surprisingly, though, was the use of the fan, a weapon often passed over by the more flashy and favored nun-chucks and three-pronged sais. The weapons have evolved into entities of their own but were originally based upon old farming implements. The evening reached its climax with the introduction of a bright red dragon teased by a masked dancer as they cavorted around the room. Although the performers fell several times while one tried to climb onto the shoulders of another in a semblance of rearing up, they finally managed to, cheered on by the audience.

There seemed to be no end to the eating and the entertainment. It was impossible to find an event that didn’t appeal to at least some segment of the population. By and large, however, it was the view that stole the moment. People could be found hanging out at the windows, mainly staring into the other stars of the night, hidden behind the cloudy cover of the evening sky.