The 31st Annual Indian American Student Association cultural show filled Hill Auditorium Friday evening. This year the show was titled “Kalyara: The Spark of Festivity” and featured 10 different dance groups, each representing a different Indian festival.
The balcony section of the show was packed with University students, students from other schools and IASA alumni, as everyone stood for the American and Indian national anthems performed by 58 Greene and Maize Mirchi, respectively.
When the lights dimmed, the balconies chanted the show’s name as the introductory video for Kalyara played on two screens at each side of the Hill stage. The audience chanted “Raas” as the first dance group, Raas, took the stage by forming the block ‘M,’ with maize and blue lighting behind them.
Three hours before the show, Classical dance group was huddled in Room A on the third floor of the League. Most of the girls in the group had begun an extensive process of spraying their hair down, applying meticulous makeup and pinning jewelry. It took three different people to get one girl ready head-to-toe with her outfit, makeup, hair and jewelry.
The three choreographers for Classical, LSA sophomore Sahithi Akasapu, Ross senior Ishika Rajan and LSA junior Kinari Shah, had been at the League since noon. This year marked the return of the Classical dance group after missing the show last year.
Rajan said she and the other choreographers had been preparing their routine since the summer.
“We started towards the end of the summer and we finished mid-September, so we did it in pieces,” Rajan said. “But the whole thing we worked on in three weeks to a month.”
Because IASA does not have an audition process for their cultural dance show, members for each group are chosen through a lottery system.
“It’s really hard to teach classical to people that aren’t trained,” she said. “Most people who do classical dance have been dancing for a very long time and a lot of girls haven’t ever danced, so that was really hard but it was really fun and they look really good now.”
At the same time, 30 feet away in the basement of Hill Auditorium, cultural show co-chairs Ria Barad, a Ross senior, and Roshni Kalbavi, an LSA senior, gave out last minute directions to Show Core, the team that helps organize and produce the IASA cultural show every year.
Barad and Kalbavi were already dressed in formal saris three hours before the show. They huddled with the rest of Show Core, around a small monitor, to check the transition graphics that will be displayed between each dance and presentation.
Barad and Kalbavi, who had not known each other before being co-chairs, have been working on the theme and execution of Kalyara since March.
“We planned this show, but our show would be nothing without the students,” Barad said. “We have students putting in their time and effort and it’s their time and effort that makes our show good, not necessarily our planning. It is the collaboration of all these students that actually makes the show a success and that’s rewarding to watch every year.”
Kalbavi said the booklets for the show were changed to reflect the festivity theme, with the transitions between each dances explaining what each festival represents.
“We don’t want to be a religious show but we want to educate our audience on different festivities that we celebrate, because it’s so different,” Kalbavi said. “I’m a South Indian, so I celebrate Pongal. But not everyone celebrates Pongal. There were a few festivals that I was educated on myself.”
Barad said she hoped the audience in the show was exposed to the various cultures in India.
“By sitting here, I can still learn about India,” Barad said. “There are so many different facets of India that even Indians don’t know. Even making these videos I’ve learned so much. Hopefully we’ll see that people learn something too while they’re here instead of just finding their friend on the stage.”
Classical, which performed fourth, mixed their soundtrack with both classical Indian rhythms and modern music, such as the instrumental version of MIA’s “Bad Girls.”
“We have fusion dances, for example, that put together songs that I didn’t think could ever be played the same minute,” Barad said. “Songs that appease your parents and songs that probably make them skeptical and it’s just amazing to see the students put this together.”