Every year the Indian American Student Association (IASA) puts together a dance show to represent different facets of Indian identity. After rehearsing since mid-September and planning for eight months, this year’s show, titled “Rivaayat” (“rediscovering our roots” in Hindi), will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in Hill Auditorium.


Tonight at 7 p.m.
Hill Auditorium
From $16

IASA has been putting on its annual show for 25 years. Typically the IASA show has around 240 participants — its co-ordinaters say it is the largest student-run production in the country — and roughly 4,000 people attend the performance. The show sells out every year, according to LSA senior Ayesha Singh, who is one of the show’s “core members” — the individuals in charge of organizing the event.

The format is consistent: Each year nine or 10 dances are featured from all over India. However, the choreography, costumes and music vary in each performance.

LSA senior and show core member Surya Sambandan said this combination of dances is captivating since not many people realize that even though India is one country, there is a variety of subcultures each with its own style, particularly in dance.

“It’s not only an entertainment thing,” Sambandan said. “We like to educate our audience about the Indian culture and its diversity. It has specific costumes, it has specific music, all characteristics of that style and that culture.”

Since she was born and raised in the Ann Arbor area, Sambandan has known about the IASA show for years. This year she decided to become more involved.

“This year I was just really ambitious and I wanted to put my stamp and my mark on the show,” Sambandan said. “It’s really cool to say that you’re one of the two cultural show coordinators to put a show on with the largest student-run group in the country. It’s a mixture of bragging rights, a mixture of challenge.”

Sambandan said it’s difficult to make the show different each year since the format — a set number of dances with themed costumes — is similar. She said this show specifically is “incredibly choreographed,” with colorful music to match.

“Every dance has a twist,” she said. “We are the Indian American Student Association, so as much as they do stay traditional to the specific dance style, we are able to remix it up with some American music. We want to let the audience know that we are students in a generation of people who have to combine two different cultures — not just Indian but our American — and I think that’s really cool.”

For years now, the show has been selling out quickly. Singh thinks its popularity has to do with the loyal members and customers who keep coming back year after year.

“There’s a good number of people around Ann Arbor where the culture is so diverse and diversity is promoted on this campus,” Singh said. “People want to come and see other cultures being showcased.”

According to Singh, the city of Ann Arbor and its citizens also add to the appeal to the show, as the city is generally accepting and encouraging of young cultural phenomena like IASA.

“The typical Ann Arborite likes to come and educate themselves on different things and learn about other cultures,” Singh said. “People are so curious about the college life and what happens around (a) college campus, that people just have that general curiosity to come see it.”

—Arielle Speciner contributed to this article.

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