Each year, Bryant University’s award-winning Extravaganza celebrates Black culture and Black artists through fashion and serves as the culmination of the university’s celebration of Black History Month. Extravaganza 2023, produced by Bryant’s Multicultural Student Union (MSU), will be held on February 24 at 6 p.m. in the campus’s Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace Wellness and Athletic Center. Admission is free and open to members of the Bryant community.
This year’s show is animated by the theme “The Soul of Black Joy” and brings together more than 70 Bryant students, both as models and behind-the-scenes producers. Extravaganza 2023 will showcase music styles from Black artists all over the world and is split into three different scenes selected and organized by the scene directors: Afro-beats, Caribbean, and reggaeton; R&B, alternative, and rap; and house music and Black LBTQIA+ artists. The outfits are carefully curated by the students to capture the energy and feel of each scene.
“Our vision for Extravaganza has always been to highlight what Black people have accomplished and the people and movements that are a huge part of that culture,” says Cianni Thomas ’23, MSU Vice President and this year’s Extravaganza Director. “The show is about expressing the joy and light that has also always been a part of Black culture.”
It also provides an opportunity for Bryant’s student body to shine their own light. “This is a way for all of the students involved in Extravaganza to express themselves and make an impact on campus,” says Thomas, who notes that every aspect of the show, from the looks to the music to the choreography, is decided on by students. “Seeing how everyone’s presence, especially the new students, shines though in Extravaganza makes me so happy and so proud.”
Diversity and community
A decades-long tradition, Extravaganza aims to do more than entertain; the student producers hope it also educates and inspires. “Extravaganza gives us a different way to showcase different aspects of culture,” explains Thomas. “We could always hold a class covering the same topics, or do it as a lecture, but a performance like this gives us a different way to engage the audience.”
By making the show a dynamic celebration, the audience becomes a part of the experience. “Through Extravaganza, there’s an immersion into Black culture. You’re engaged in it, you’re feeling it and by the time you leave you come out with a newfound awareness and appreciation,” says Thomas.
“We want them to say, ‘Wow, what I just watched was amazing and I want to learn more.’”
All Bryant students are welcome to be a part of Extravaganza, regardless of their experience with modeling or their background. “One of our favorite things about the show is that it’s so inclusive, and that’s one of the things that makes it so beautiful. Anyone can take part in Extravaganza, as long as they’re an ally,” says MSU president Vaishnavi Velagapudi ’23, who notes that inspiring camaraderie and solidarity throughout the entire student body is one of the key goals of the MSU. “The Multicultural Student Union is all about bringing together people from all different backgrounds to share those backgrounds with one another and learn from one another.”
One of the university’s most popular events, Extravaganza garners a supportive and enthusiastic crowd of faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends of the University. “It can almost be overwhelming but in a really positive way,” says Velagapudi, who, like Thomas, will be performing in Extravaganza for the third time (the 2021 show was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic). “Every time I walk on the Extravaganza stage, it feels like it’s the first walk I’ve ever done; my legs are always jelly,” she recalls. “But the second you start to see all of the support around you — both on the stage and in the audience — it really builds your confidence.”
The energy that Extravaganza evokes, says Thomas, often leads to new discoveries and new bonds. “By the end of the show, we want the audience to have a feeling of elation inside them and to be inspired to discover more about music and about Black culture. We want them to say, ‘Wow, what I just watched was amazing and I want to learn more.’ ”