In front of a sold-out crowd at the Michigan Theater, members of
the Indian American Student Association dressed in brilliant
traditional clothing while performing to the beat of rousing songs
during IASA’s 20th annual culture show. Using a mix of modern and
traditional styles, performers were able to embrace both their
Indian roots and American upbringings.

Mira Levitan
LSA senior Sachin Nanavati dances in the Savaar Thi Saanj — a dance which represents the daily work, religion and social festivities of the Gujarati culture. (ASHLEY HARPER/Daily)

This year’s show was titled “Sahastitva,” a phrase translated as
“life as it is” and used to illustrate the theme of this year’s
show – the celebration of India’s many ethnicities and
cultures.

Culture show co-coordinator Jasen Mehta clarified the goals of
this year’s show.

“This year, one of our main objectives is to show that Indian
people may not always be united but that they manage to coexist.
The beauty is that they can coexist,” Mehta said.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of IASA, the group’s founder
addressed the full house in commemoration. Sam Shekar founded IASA
at the University in 1983 and shared his delight in the
organization’s progress from its small beginnings.

“We used to count the people who came in the door for each
meeting to see if we had enough people to break even. We lived
event to event. We disconnected our stereos from our dorms to bring
to meetings and play music,” Shekar said.

“IASA is a great example of the contribution that Indian
Americans are making at this University, state and nation,” he
said.

In contrast, the show now has major corporate sponsors and IASA
has become one of the University’s largest student organizations.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and DTE Energy were just two of the
corporate sponsors featured in the show’s program.

The show’s festivities included a variety of songs and dances,
ranging from the traditional Banghra to a modern salute to
Bollywood cinema. Before, during and after each piece, the crowd
erupted with shouts of encouragement for the performers.

Participants in this year’s show invested significant amounts of
time preparing, beginning their rehearsals in mid-September.

IASA member and cultural show participant Niraj Shah recalled
the practice schedule and time commitment that went into the show’s
production.

“We practiced three days a week for about two hours outside
Angell Hall. We’d sometimes go from nine at night until midnight,
just practicing,” said Shah, an LSA sophomore.

Both of Saturday’s shows sold out as the University community
and others from southeast Michigan came to watch.

“We draw the South Asian community of Detroit as well as the Ann
Arbor community,” said Mehta, an Engineering junior. “Our show is
highly regarded. High schoolers in the area regard this as an
amazing show, and they come to watch their siblings in the show.
They watch people they knew from school.”

It was Engineering junior Samir Shah’s sixth time watching the
show. He had heard about it from his brother even before attending
the University.

“It’s unbelievable to see a production like this put on
completely by students. It shows a lot about what people get out of
(IASA) and what they want to give back,” Shah said.

Other audience members echoed Shah’s praise.

“It makes me appreciate their culture much more since you don’t
normally get to see their background and experiences on an everyday
basis,” Engineering junior Dave Pickney said.

Scott Doerrfeld, a performer, said the both the show’s
preparation and execution were memorable.

“It’s incredibly fun with all of the friendships formed and the
cultural knowledge gained,” said Doerrfeld, a Music and LSA
senior.

“I’m not Indian American and I didn’t know that I could be a
part of the show, but you see it once and you’re pretty blown away.
I think people see it once and want to be a part of it.”

-Daily News Editor Kylene Kiang contributed to this
report.

 

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