The root of the Sanskrit word mizrana means “mixture.” For the University’s Indian American Student Association, which chose the word for the title of this year’s cultural show, mizrana means to combine various elements of art, dance and music together from across the world.
The unification of these elements is the theme of the IASA Annual Cultural Show, which will be held tonight at Hill Auditorium. With approximately 300 participants, the show has earned its status as one of the largest student-run productions in the nation – and that’s only half of the organization’s members. With an aim to actively spread awareness of Indian culture, the 600 members are involved in social, political and cultural events throughout the year.
Since the organization’s founding in 1983, its participants have voiced an appreciation for Indian culture and a concern for how it will continue to flourish among political and environmental changes like the expansion of the Indian diaspora.
With community building and service events like Gandhi Day and Dance Marathon, the organization has forged relationships with other student groups on campus.
“We create a community that doesn’t exclude ourselves from other communities,” said Anup Shah, an LSA senior and the president of IASA. “We allow our community to be open because we want people to leave this school with a sense of what other cultures are like around the world.”
One of the ways this is accomplished is through the annual cultural show, which celebrates the heritage of an ancient civilization and the ways it has spread across the globe. In an attempt to inform and entertain, these shows preserve traditions and recreate them through modern-day song and dance.
With an unfortunate language barrier between today’s generation of Indian Americans and older generations, dance can narrow this gap. An effective form of creative expression, it’s one way for a culture to evolve.
Tonight’s performance will illustrate how Indian and other cultures are inspired by one another. Both the intro and final dances demonstrate the concept of coming full circle. The first dance will begin in an Indian style, then move into a blend of western beats, while the final dance will be a reversal of this pattern.
“Every step signifies a new kind of style – we go from pure Indian classical dancing to jazz in the same beat,” said LSA sophomore Nishi Singhal, who was a choreographer on the show.
The interplay between cultures is clear in “Noche de Natyam,” the Latin-inspired classical dance, and “Ek Kabila ki Kahani,” a tribute to the African heritage of the Gujarat state’s Sidi tribe.
“The main purpose of doing this was to show how seemingly different cultures can coexist harmoniously,” said LSA junior Vina Sinnan, who was also a choreographer on the show.
This will also be the case for the Bhangra dance “Bhungry,” which paints from a palette of both Indian and Western influences. Native to the Indian state of Punjab, the core meaning of Bhangra tradition lies in a festive celebration of patriotism and harvest. As it has moved into mainstream culture, it’s been imported into such musical genres as rap and reggae.
The show is also comprised of the Raas dance, which uses dandia sticks that are spun and hit together to the rhythm of fast-paced music. This year it integrates a Middle Eastern style. Also interspersed throughout the performance will be videos and a fashion show, as well as Bollywood, gypsy, South Indian and village dances.
Such a fusion can only yield a mizrana – a mixture that can hold infinite ingredients.
IASA Cultural Show
Today at 7 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium