South Asian groups dance in fifth 'That Brown Show'

By Tanya Madhani, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 5, 2015

Several of the University’s South Asian student performance groups gathered at the Power Center on Saturday night to perform in the fifth annual “That Brown Show.”

Michigan Sahana, a student group composed of Indian classical dancers and musicians, organizes and hosts TBS every year.

Engineering sophomore Sandeep Siva, Michigan Sahana vice president and TBS Committee chair, said the event was created to showcase South Asian arts to University students and local residents. Siva said the founders of the event titled the event “That Brown Show” to connect across a variety of groups across campus.

More than 800 students, alumni from the performing groups, family members of participants and Ann Arbor residents attended Saturday’s event.

The most challenging part of the show, Siva said, was preserving the original idea and identity of the show without getting distracted by the planning process, which began in January.

“We put a lot of time and effort into it,” he said. “A lot of the time it’s easy to get caught up in the logistical work, but the main thing we wanted to emphasize was the community of musicians and dancers that represent South Asian arts … The main idea is to build that community and build that connection and showcase the arts to everyone.”

LSA freshmen Shalini Rao and Dhara Gosalia, publicity co-chairs on the TBS Committee, posted flyers around campus, chalked sidewalks and promoted the show on social media.

Throughout March, members of Michigan Sahana and other participating dance groups — including Michigan Manzil and the Michigan Bhangra Team — posted selfies on social media with TBS’s mascot, a bear named Thyagraja, using the hashtags #traja2015 and #tbs to promote the event.

Affectionately known as T-Raja, the bear mascot helped make TBS more popular and visible this year, Rao said.

“People who might not normally notice what the ‘That Brown Show’ table is, they see the bear dancing around and that’s how we can get our name out there,” Rao said. “The mascot really helped us with getting all the other teams integrated with TBS. Even though Michigan Sahana hosts it, TBS has been put on by eight different groups in total, so in the past years it has been a struggle getting those other teams more involved in promoting TBS with us, but taking selfies with the bear was a great promotional tool.”

Rao added that Saturday’s audience was one of the biggest in TBS’ five-year run.

“It was so rewarding to see people asking me if they could sit in the taped-off area because there weren’t other seats left, or having people ask if to go into the balcony because the main floor was that packed,” Rao said. “We got a lot of people to come who didn’t come last year.”

Ann Arbor residents Pallavi Prabhu and Baani Jain said they were impressed with TBS. Prabhu, who trained in Indian classical dance for 13 years, said her favorite part of the show was the final performance put on by Michigan Sahana dancers.

“I think it was really well-coordinated and I think they choreographed it themselves,” Prabhu. “It takes a lot of effort to pull off something where a teacher isn’t watching.”

Prabhu will begin attending the University next fall, and said she hopes to come back and watch future performances of TBS.

“Hopefully next year I’ll be participating in it,” Prabhu added.

LSA freshman Rahul Ahluwalia said he attended the event to support his friends in Michigan Raas, Michigan Manzil and Michigan Izzat, but enjoyed the classical and modern dance fusion performances.

“I thought it spread the culture well,” Ahluwalia said.

Siva noted that he regularly snuck out to the audience from backstage throughout the show to observe reactions. He said numerous people after the show told him how much they liked the event.

“When the other teams told me how much they enjoyed the show, it really made me feel like a community had been built,” he said.