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"Sandhi" explores Indian culture through dance

BY SARA SCHNEIDER
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 2, 2008

Sandhi: The Essence of Harmony
Friday, Nov. 7, 2008
7 p.m.
Hill Auditorium
Tickets available at MUTO or Ticketmaster.com

Sandhi is the Sanskrit word for harmony, and this year’s multicultural show put on by the Indian American Student Association (IASA) brings its own interpretations of harmony through dance, costume and music. Celebrating IASA’s 25th anniversary, “Sandhi: The Essence of Harmony” will include unique performances displaying the different cultures of India.

The performance will be held today at 7 p.m. in Hill Auditorium. Tickets are now available at the Michigan Union Ticket Office or through Ticketmaster.com. All proceeds from the show go to Manav Sadhna, a charity that works with impoverished children in India to help them become productive members of society.

Year after year, spectators return to this event because every season the show offers something new and exciting to captivate its audience. Although there are many groups that put on performances on campus, LSA senior and IASA’s Cultural Show Coordinator, Dhruv Menawat, believes this show is different.

“You see a lot of what you call 'cultural shows' in this day and age, but one of the things that happens is that they sometimes become stereotypical,” Menawat said. “The shows end up being the same thing every year, creating a stagnant view of their culture instead of expanding the public’s knowledge.”

Even though IASA has limited its show to mainly dance and music, its organizers try to make the show fresh every year.

“Through different themes, we try to change and explore new ideas while maintaining the same tradition,” Menawat said.

To address this year’s theme of harmony, each act will display a specific traditional Indian instrument that the performers have previously created a performance around. Through the unique act design, the show attempts to encapsulate the coming together of unique traits of Indian culture.

“When all these sounds come together, they have a melody that resonates among all of us,” Menawat said. “So even Indians who were not born in India and people who are not part of the culture at all feel the melody that goes on through all of us.”

Although IASA runs the show entirely on its own, the participants come from a variety of campus organizations. Anyone can participate. “This gives people a chance to step outside of their own organizations and come together to join in something great,” Menawat said.

The cultural show is the biggest event hosted by IASA, but it’s not the only event. The group annually holds several other community-oriented cultural activities such as Gandhi Day. “The experience is not just Nov. 7, it is all year,” Menawat said. “We are continuously trying to educate our community about the different aspects of the Indian culture and heritage through other events.”

Menawat’s personal experiences within IASA have kept him involved on campus throughout his college career.

“It’s not because I am Indian that I love being a part of IASA. It is just amazing the amount of things I get to do and see,” Menawat said. “After helping 300 students do service projects on Gandhi Day, you really feel like you are doing something real and making a change.”

With a steady flow of about 4,000 spectators annually, the IASA cultural show continues to wow its audiences with loud and bright productions. But, according to Menawat, this is more than just a performance.

“What it really is, is a chance for the whole community to come together and experience ‘sandhi.’ ”