Cultural event showcases South Asian music and dance

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Michigan Sahana performs an Indian Classical dance That Brown Show Saturday in the Power Center. Buy this photo

By Neala Berkowski, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 6, 2014

Saturday, a blur of vibrant costumes, dynamic music and harmonious voices filled the Power Center for the 4th annual performance of That Brown Show.

Students performed both traditional and contemporary South Asian music and dance to a crowd of over 300 friends, family and members of the Ann Arbor community.

That Brown Show was started in 2011 by Michigan Sahana, a group of Indian classical dancers and musicians, as a way to unite the different South Asian performing groups on campus and give them the opportunity to showcase their talents. The show also hopes to educate the University and Ann Arbor community on South Asian arts.

Engineering sophomore Shwetha Hariharan, dance chair of That Brown Show for Michigan Sahana, said the group reaches out to South Asian performing groups all over campus in order to recruit teams for the show.

“We try to make it as inclusive as possible, and most years we’re able to get most of the teams to perform,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll have competitions or other things going on, but we really want to make an inclusive experience and allow all the teams to come together because it is one of the purposes of the show.”

This year’s show included performances by 58 Greene, Michigan Sahana, Maya, TAAL, Michigan Manzil, The Michigan Raas, Maize Mirchi and The Michigan Bhangra Team, said Engineering senior Hema Karunakaram, the show’s chair. Each group’s piece was preceded by a short video clip to introduce its members, convey the purpose of the team, and set the stage for the performance.

Groups such as Michigan Sahana and Maya performed Indian classical dance while TAAL and Michigan Manzil performed Bollywood-style dances. Raas presented a traditional folk dance while the Michigan Bhangra Team performed a blend of styles.

Groups such as 58 Greene, Michigan Sahana and Maize Mirchi gave vocal performances. 58 Greene opened the show with an a cappella version of the national anthem, followed by Michigan Sahana’s rendition of the Indian national anthem. Michigan Sahana musicians also performed traditional Indian music.

Engineering junior Abbhinav Muralidharan, the show’s music chair, said the performance is unique because of the diversity of the acts it offers.

“You wouldn’t find this set of performing teams together in any other show because they have different styles of dance, different styles of music but they all perform together for one show,” Muralidharan said.

Engineering sophomore Jacob Gersh said he was impressed by how a shared culture brought the groups, who come from multiple artistic genres, together.

“They’re not connected by the thing they do, they’re connected by the heritage they share and from that they build a performance,” Gersh said.

Hariharan said the name of the show comes from the shared backgrounds of the performers.

“Brown is the common factor in all these teams,” Hariharan said. “We’re all really different … but the thing that ties us together is that we’re all South Asian and we all like to refer to ourselves as brown. It’s just something really casual.”