If you went to a big university like myself (University of Texas at Austin), especially one that had a huge South Asian population, it was always exciting to see different dance groups showcase their talent. I was lucky to be on a campus that represented so many different Indian dance forms, from classical to Bhangra to Raas to Bollywood. We even had a South Indian dance group, but I did not see one rise again after my freshman year, which I thought was sad because I love the energetic and gyrating movements in South Indian dance!
So, I myself never made the time to join competitive dance groups, and I certainly was not as talented, but I did have the chance to be in a few for different cultural shows in college and one in high school. Even today, I miss those dances very much, and I cannot remember since senior year of college when I had the opportunity just to dance for fun. Nevertheless, despite the drama in dance groups (and we all deal with a fair share given how easy it is to take something personal in this endeavor), the experience was amazing and really pushed me to loosen up and not be so self-conscious (because I, in fact, did better when I just had fun with it). I was lucky to have dance groups that included my non-Desi friends, and that made it all the more fun!
Here is a showcase of some wonderful college dance group numbers I have viewed, and yes, I will probably have more of a slant towards my own Alma Mater (and a fun one of my own which is by no means is as amazing as the first couple I showcase, but still a memory). I am sure people may say there are better, but perhaps my not so refined eye may not be able to recognize who is so much better, but I guess I judge dance groups mostly by coordination and energy more than anything. So, based on those judgments I showcase the videos below.
Our Contemporary Bollywood Group at the University of Texas, Mohini – performing in 2008 during my junior year of UT (sorry current undergrad students, but this is how I remember them. I am sure how you perform now is still amazing!) What I loved about the group was that they would do old and new numbers, and everything in between. Goodness so many memories of watching groups dance in that area with the Texas Capitol in the background.
Okay, I will stop with the nostalgia!
And then, here is a bhangra group from Emory. I do not know anybody personally, but the elements of Bhangra teams seem to be quite common across campuses, but you know, with different objects. I recall seeing one Bhangra team use umbrellas and many use staffs, nevertheless always loved seeing it! Bhangra team required energy that would just make me sweat watching it!
Here is a Raas team from the University of North Carolina, representing the Gujju musical love! Not only are there dance moves, but making sure those sticks hit on time. Last time I did Raas was at a Narvatri celebration, and lord knows how many times I hit somebody’s hand with the sticks or dropped them in my attempt to feel cool and toss them in a talented way.
Lastly, here is a Tamil group doing some Tollywood from Michigan State University, named Satrang. I especially love the very last song, Appudi Podu (and perhaps the only one I can sing, but still not understand the words).
And finally, here’s my just for fun and not so competitive dance from junior year of college in 2008 for a show called Jashan! Our group’s name was Aarzoo, and Funny Indian Lady was in the group with me as well. Oh, the memories!
So, to all of the Desi college dance groups out there, keep the fun going! It is certainly one of the best memories, whether or not you were in a competitive group. It was always fun, from dance group drama to song picks (and hoping the competing groups didn’t choose them first) to clothing. If you came together and brought together a great performance, that is all that really should be remembered in the end!
Perhaps Motley Monday may have been too nostalgic for me today, but it is because I grew up in a household where dancing was highly discouraged. Eventually, my parents came around and stopped the double standards of only letting the guys have fun dancing, while us girls sat in the background to avoid aunties from thinking we were “loose women”, for a lack of a better term. Towards the end of high school and beginning of college I was glad I opened myself up to it. Maybe I should take up dancing in a group for fun again. Sadly, the twenty-somethings and its busy life does make it hard to not only find time, but also people who are willing to join in! Well, there are always weddings!