South Asian groups perform to sold-out crowd

Alexandra Finkel

A fusion of traditional song and dance influenced by Western culture erupted on stage Feb. 9 to a sold-out audience of more than 1,000 at the South Asian Student Alliance’s 2008 show, “Lights, Camera, SASA.”

The groups’ co-president and former cultural chair, Sue Banerjee, said her goal for the annual SASA show is to educate and entertain the Northwestern community.

“We wanted to showcase South Asian heritage and reach out to the campus population and show them how colorful our culture is and how much fun we have being South Asian,” the Medill junior said. “For many of us, being South Asian plays a huge part of who we are.”

The three-hour show at Cahn Auditorium featured a smorgasbord of several dances, musical pieces and a fashion show with traditional South Asian men’s and women’s clothing. The 13 acts included various South Asian student groups including Brown Sugar, Deeva Dance Troupe, NU Raas and Northwestern Bhangra.

Asma Ahmad said she recognized the dancing from growing up and was pleased with the show’s accuracy.

“So far about 90 percent of what I’ve seen has actually been Indian-style dancing rather than American dancing with Indian music in the background,” the Medill sophomore said.

While some students came to watch friends perform, others came out of cultural curiosity.

Hannah Polus said she had seen a Raas team at another event and was excited to come back to see other traditional styles of dance.

“It’s so impressive,” the Weinberg freshman said. “All the dancers are so light on their feet and they are so talented.”

In keeping with this year’s theme of movies, the three emcees performed comedic skits integrating American movies and putting a South Asian twist on them. Frequent pop culture references from Harry Potter to Grey’s Anatomy had the audience laughing and yelling at the stage in between each act.

Weinberg senior Kate Pomeroy said she came to the show because she was curious about South Asian culture.

“It’s something that’s really interesting to learn about,” she said. “The show is a great way for students to learn about other cultures because it’s so entertaining.”

About 200 students including performers and the executive board have been planning the show since the middle of Fall Quarter, said Cultural Chair Drishay Menon. As director of the show, Menon said he focused on putting a younger, more modern spin on the traditional South Asian performances.

“To be able to evolve and grow within the world you need to understand different types of cultures – where they come from and where they’re going,” the McCormick sophomore said. “That’s why our show is great because we have the roots of tradition but also what the culture has become.”

Co-President Krupa Shah, a Communication junior, said she hopes the show will raise awareness of South Asian culture.

“South Asians make up such a large portion of our student body yet there are so many people who don’t know anything about our culture, including South Asian students themselves,” she said. “We live in such a diverse environment and we are surrounded by people of so many different cultures it would seem kind of silly not to be aware of where people come from and what they believe.”

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