On Friday night, the Indian American Student Association put on its annual cultural dance show at the Michigan Theater. This year’s show, titled “Kahaani: The Tale of Our Time,” featured more than 250 participants performing for a sold-out audience. The show featured 10 dances showcasing a variety of styles, ranging from traditional Bhangra and South Indian dances, to Bollywood and hip hop.
“Kahaani,” which means “story,” was chosen as the show’s theme by the show coordinators and show core team. LSA senior Karthik Pittala, IASA co-president, talked about the reasons behind the theme.
“They wanted to sort of make it like a story, so we have ups and downs in terms of tempo or musicality trying to make it dynamic as much as possible,” Pittala said. “I think it’s just something that resonated with all of us.”
As co-presidents, Pittala and LSA senior Sanjna Chokshi were in charge of communicating with the leadership team and the rest of the IASA members, as well as engaging with other organizations on campus such as the United Asian American Organizations and Michigan Sahānā.
“We’re like the groundwork, and then everyone else can build their ideas based on some of our suggestions,” Pittala said.
IASA also partners with a charity each year to help raise money and promote their cause. This year’s community service partner was Sakhi for South Asian Women, a New York-based charity that unites “survivors, communities, and institutions to eradicate gender-based violence and form healthy communities.”
After the dancers of the “Village” performance left the stage in their traditional costumes, taking with them the aviator sunglasses they put on in the middle of the dance, the show took a brief pause from the high energy and humor of the dances to play a video about Sakhi’s mission and impact.
As one of the community service chairs for IASA, LSA sophomore Jhanvi Garg was involved with picking out the charity for the season and creating events throughout the year that align with Sakhi’s values.
“Me and Vaishali (Nambiar), my co-chair, talked about what we wanted IASA to represent a lot, and we decided that we wanted to be something that a lot of people can relate to,” Garg said. “Not a lot of people talk about it, but domestic violence is a big issue in the South Asian community, as it is with any other minority community.”
After educating the audience about IASA’s community involvement regarding Sakhi and its mission, the next dance “Hip Hop” had the audience cheering nonstop to the tune of modern songs like Post Malone’s “Wow” and Bruno Mars’s “Finesse.” This dance blended traditional cultural dance styles with elements of modern hip hop dancing.
Pooja Subramaniam, Business and LSA senior, attended to support her friends dancing in “Filmi.” While family members mostly sat on the main floor by the dancers who were waiting for their dance, Subramaniam sat on the balcony level, which is typically the “student section” of the audience.
“(The atmosphere) is kind of buzzing,” Subramaniam said. “It’s pretty fun to be around people that are just cheering for their friends.”
The back of the balcony was filled with rows of students standing up, chanting and cheering nonstop throughout the dances. However, even the dancers on the main floor got to have their moment to stand up and cheer as audience members for the a cappella group Penn Masala, who performed right before intermission.
“We are all just really excited to hear them,” Easheta Shah, LSA freshman and dancer, said.
Penn Masala, the world’s first South Asian a cappella group, has performed around the globe and was featured in the movie “Pitch Perfect 2” in 2015. As they sang their last few medleys combining traditional songs and current pop songs, the dancers crowded the stage to sing along with them and high fived the singers as they ran across the edge of the stage.
In previous years, IASA’s cultural show had been held in Hill Auditorium. However, the show coordinators decided to switch this year’s show to the Michigan Theater venue. The main auditorium of the Michigan Theater, where the show was held, only has 1,600 seats, while Hill Auditorium is the largest performance space on campus, seating 3,500 people. This change was made in hopes of getting the audience to be more involved with the dancers.
“It feels a lot closer, so when you hear the cheering, the cheering is really loud,” Pittala said. “Everyone’s really engaged with the dancing a lot more.”