Nine students huddle around tables in the Ross School of Business, using the half-hour break to inhale a light dinner and take a moment to relax. Papers, computers and a three-foot wide banner are scattered across the ground and tabletops, where the students — all core members of the Indian American Student Association’s cultural dance show — talk excitedly about the music and performances that will soon fill Hill Auditorium.
ZASTANA: The Pulse of Our Generation
Friday at 7 p.m.
In its 28th year, the IASA Cultural Show is one of the most popular and highly regarded cultural events at the University. Over 220 IASA members will dance across the stage Friday, highlighting choreography from traditional Indian dances to contemporary hip hop.
While the annual show has become somewhat of a staple of the University community, few may realize the strenuous lengths to which IASA must go to put on the production each year.
LSA senior Rohit Maramraju said the group began preparations for the 2012 show in March, when he and fellow LSA senior Proma Khosla were selected as show coordinators by the IASA council. Fast forward to Friday, Maramraju, Khosla, who is a Daily Arts writer, and hundreds of other IASA show members will showcase eight months of planning and practicing. But as the co-coordinators and their seven-member core leadership team described, the path to Friday’s performance was no easy feat.
After selecting seven IASA members to act as liaisons among the choreographers, dancers and organizers, Maramraju and Khosla sat down with the “Fantastic Core” to discuss a theme for the year’s performance. After arguing well into the night, the leadership team decided on “ZASTANA: The Pulse of Our Generation.”
“That just refers to how we, as a generation, have a mix of cultures,” Maramraju explained. “Some of us may have been born in India, some of us may have been born here, but we’re still mixed in some way.”
Maramraju said the 22 choreographers, who applied for positions in March, contributed to the theme by fusing westernized dances, like jazz and hip hop, with various types of Indian dances, including Bollywood and Bhangra.
“When you consider each of the dances we’re doing … each of these have their own identifying characteristics,” Neil Bhatt, an engineering senior and member of the seven-person core, explained. “Fusion elements refers to Western elements, Western beats … that kind of give the dances different texture.”
Choreographers then had five months to create a dance and select music to fit their theme. Once classes started in September, 222 IASA members, through a lottery process, were selected to perform in one of the show’s nine dances. Since then, as Maramraju said, it has been “practice, practice, practice.”
At this point, Maramraju, Bhatt and the other leaders kept an eye on dancers and choreographers, while conceptualizing a logo for the event. This year, the show’s logo is based off a peacock, the national bird of India.
“The peacock feather is very intricate,” Maramraju said. “One of the main reasons we chose it is the cultural aspect … we still want to stay humble to our roots.”
Business sophomore Suhind Kodali said the most difficult part of planning the show was making sure to communicate with the hundreds of members involved while simultaneously keeping up with classes and taking care of the logistical issues of the show.
“One of the hardest parts I think as a show core member is the scale that this show is on,” Kodali said. “How do you sell tickets to 4,000 people? How do you organize 300 dancers?”
In the final weeks leading to the show, the core said that virtually all of its time has been spent focusing on perfecting the different show elements.
“Sure, we have school,” Maramraju said. “But for every minute we get away from school we truly try to show everyone the hard effort we’ve put into it.”
Engineering junior Tanay Kulkarni said the workload for the planning process increased incrementally over the eight-month planning period from an hour a week at first to several hours a day in the final week.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be anything less than a full-time job,” Kulkarni said.
LSA junior and core member Mallika Sarma didn’t attend classes this past week in order to prepare for the show. She said though friends of hers who aren’t in IASA don’t completely understand her commitment to the performance, she believes the sacrifices she made were well worth it.
“It’s very difficult to explain to other people, when you’re like ‘Hey, I’m not going to be talking to regular people for about three weeks,’ ” she said with a knowing smile. “But at the same time … it’s definitely worth it. Overall, it’s one of the best things I’ve done in college.”