The South Asian Student Alliance and 130 performers showcased a joyful celebration of South Asian music, dance and the South Asian community at Northwestern in Cahn Auditorium Saturday.
The theme for this year’s SASA Show was “Dosti,” or “Friends.” The video clips shown between performances, though not always the highest quality productions, did bring high quality laughs. Emcees Keertana Jain, Kripa Guha, Deepikaa Sriram and Karishma Desai played the cast of Friends in creative skits that let the audience relate to their Northwestern experience.
The dancers in each group were relentlessly expressive and their joy was contagious. Dance team Northwestern Raas, which travels the country performing traditional folk Gujarati dances with a modern twist, cooked up a storm with a hilarious kitchen themed video and dance sequence. From the five seconds of “Work this Out” from High School Musical 2 with giant spatulas and food props, I knew the show was going to be fun and unpredictable.
Weinberg freshman Pari Thakkar says that though Raas has three-hour rehearsals three times a week, the commitment is worth it.
“I would say that’s the number one thing I really look forward to: having your friends cheer for you and working toward that goal, and just having a fun time, because it really doesn’t matter if you mess up or fall down. It’s just being able to practice toward something that’s very special,” Thakkar said.
Each dance group impressed with dynamic choreography, interesting formations, transitions, eye-catching outfits and unexpected dance remixes (Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat,” Nicki Minaj’s “Chun Li” and various trap renditions of Bollywood music were highlights). The eight female and eight male dancers of NU Bhangra, which performs a traditional dance style from the Punjab region, seemed as if they would never stop skipping and swinging.
The next dance group was the newly-founded Ahana Dance Project.
“I think Ahana is a team that does all different types of choreography, and anyone on the team is given the opportunity to choreograph, so it’s just a very safe learning environment,” said Keertana Jain, Weinberg senior and co-captain of Ahan.
Brown Sugar, the nation’s premier co-ed Bollywood fusion a capella group, performed two songs. The second, a remix between “Blank” and “Paradise,” was a particular treat that made me wish they had performed more.
Northwestern Deeva, a nationally recognized all-female dance troupe, performed a memorable finale featuring a dance based off of the 2007 Bollywood movie, Chak De! India. Through voiceovers, movie clips and a blend of Bollywood, jazz, lyrical and hip hop music, they told the story of India’s Women’s Hockey Team, who defied sexism and family expectations.
“This year we really wanted to focus on female empowerment and how women are being taken seriously in some male dominated fields; and we just really like the props and the whole idea of interacting with Indian culture,” said Weinberg junior and Deeva choreographer Mehek Sethi. “I’m really glad the audience was so hype for us. They always chant, ‘D what? Deeva!’”
The four class dances, though less polished, were just as fun. They allowed students not currently in a dance group to perform and bond with the South Asian community.
“It’s kind of hard, because I don’t really dance that much,” said Weinberg freshman Rena Upadhyay. “It was really fun though, because we’re all friends, so it’s still a good experience and a good way to embrace your culture.”
The show also featured presentations from philanthropic projects at Northwestern, including I-AM SHAKTI, which works to destigmatize mental illness for Indian Americans, and Project RISHI, which established a sustainable health clinic in rural Northern India. On March 23, Tufaan Entertainment, which helps provide education to marginalized children in India, is hosting a Bollywood dance competition at Cahn Auditorium.
As the South Asian culture community at Northwestern continues to grow, so does the audience of the SASA Show. “It just makes me very happy that we have something like this on campus,” Jain said.