The show must go on — that is the motto Michigan Sahānā, a student group focused on the appreciation and performance of Indian classical music and dance, is embracing as they pivot their annual fall show to a virtual setup.

The theme of this fall’s performance is motherhood, or Amba in the Sanskrit language, and the different roles mothers and women play in the Hindu and Indian communities. Chosen for its versatility, the performers will be expressing Amba in a variety of dance and musical performances, ranging from kuchipudi to odissi styles of dance. 

Business senior Sanghamithra Kalimi, member of Sahānā, will be dancing in kuchipudi style for the show and has been practicing with her partner both in person and via video chat since October. They will be recording their individual final performance using a camera in her dance teacher’s decorated basement since performing and recording with the group in Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre was canceled after Washtenaw County’s stay-in-place order.  

Kalimi said some challenges she faced preparing for the premiere included having to shorten her performance to accommodate for the increase of individual pieces replacing large group performances. Additionally, she had to learn to coordinate and rehearse with partners virtually, but her passion for dancing and classical performances is what kept her on Sahānā’s team despite the obstacles. 

“We’re not performing in an auditorium anymore, we’re not gonna have that feel of a huge performance but … that doesn’t take away from your dance. It doesn’t matter where you perform — whether you perform in an auditorium, a basement or outside — a performance can still be as good as you make it,” Kalimi said. “Dance, at the end of the day, is only you performing … you’re focusing on what you’re doing (and your passion).” 

LSA sophomore Divya Ramamoorthy, dance chair of Sahānā, attested to the passion and creativity of student performers. 

“For the past month, I’ve really enjoyed checking in with all the teams and watching their practice videos,” Ramamoorthy said. “It’s been really cool to see how performers have gotten creative with practicing together over Zoom and choreographing in a virtual format.”  

Due to classes moving online last semester in mid-March, Sahānā had to cancel their annual “That Brown Show,” an event where a number of South Asian performance groups collaborate to bring the community together for a night of music, singing and dancing. Transitioning to an academic year of virtual shows required some reflecting over the summer,  LSA sophomore Sahita Manda, public relations chair of Sahānā, said. 

“To come back strong … and take it as a privilege that we as an org have the ability to make a difference — whether it be getting people excited for shows and events we throw on or getting more members of Sahānā involved in what we do — we started this initiative of the ‘Practice Diaries’ over the summer,” Manda said. “Because we were all at home, people could send in short videos of them doing a piece, a dance. It was a time for us to reflect on why we are performing and why we are classical artists in the first place, and we want to continue the same momentum as we pioneer the concept of virtual performances on campus.” 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to the group, members remain optimistic by looking for the silver lining of the virtual setup. Public Health junior Subarna Bhattacharya, president of Sahānā and Michigan in Color columnist, says, “Having a virtual show increases accessibility for people because I know a lot of people have parents out of state and they can’t always come in to see (our shows), which is really sad. Even relatives who live across the country or across the globe will be able to tune in to watch which is exciting because we never had that far of a reach before.” 

Sahānā’s Amba show will be premiering on YouTube Live from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 14. 

Daily contributor Sadia Jiban can be reached at sjiban@umich.edu. 

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