Students tell story of Indian holiday Holi with twists and twirls

Students adorned in silks and traditional Indian garb filled the Lisner Auditorium stage with motion and color at the Indian Student Association’s Holi Rangeela 2000 Saturday night.

Indian students from GW, the University of Maryland and George Mason University sang and danced to a medley of traditional and modern music in celebration of Holi, the second largest Indian holiday of the year.

Proceeds from the event went to a $2,000 ISA donation to the D.C. chapter of Asha for Education, an organization that sets up schools and basic education facilities in India, ISA President Vikram Bakhru said.

One of the highlights of the event, Bhangra Unplugged, featured 12 GW dancers who told a story with synchronized hand gestures and spins. The dancers moved their hips to the beat of the music and twirled past each other in unison.

Falguni Patel, a GW ISA vice president, said performances mixed modern motions with traditional dances from the Gujarat and Punjab states in India to add a touch of entertainment to a traditional holiday. The performance did not have classical Indian dancing, Patel said.

Holi, the festival of color, is a celebration for good harvest and fertility for the coming spring. Indian families gather with friends to celebrate by throwing colored power and water on each other to wash off their sins and show thanks for the energy they have been given. The night’s festivities include dancing and sweets after dinner.

The holiday is officially celebrated March 20, but this year’s campus celebration was held earlier because of spring break.

Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil during Holi. The story associated with the holiday involves an evil king who misused powers to steal people’s worship for the gods. The king’s son, Prahlad, triumphed over his father after refusing to worship him over the gods.

At Lisner Auditorium Mishri Jain sat in the audience with two of his granddaughters, who were clad in traditional wear. He said he came to ISA’s Holi celebration because he enjoys celebrating the holiday with a large group of people. He enjoyed the performances’ mix of old steps, from all parts of India, and more modern American dance routines, he said.

Most female performers wore intricately patterned lengahs, a modern version of traditional Indian garb, while male performers donned the traditional kurta tops and pajama pants.

Students showcased different Indian garb in a fashion show, entitled Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. Female students, dressed in bright outfits, twirled in the arms of their male counterparts, who wore black suits or tan kurtas.

Sophomore Deepa Ganachari sported her mother’s red sari, the most traditional of all female attire. She said large crowds usually enjoy a mix of old and new body movements incorporated in most performances.

Sophomore Karunya Manikonda, who has danced for about eight years, said many of the hip movements and steps incorporated in the night’s dances are taken from modern movies rather than classical dances. Most of the hand gestures in the dances were true to traditional dances, she said.

GW students circled each other in unison and displayed elaborate hand gestures along with a modern beat of music during the Hindi Film Dance. Their hands, feet and hips moved in one fluid motion across the stage as audience members clapped. The women danced to a traditional Indian song, re-mixed with a modern beat.

Pankaj Sinha, a native to India who lives in Maryland, said he recalled spending hours washing the colored powder out of his hair and skin after Holi celebrations when he was a child.

GW students twirled and banged sticks in a rhythmic performance of a traditional drum song, a dandia raas. Female dancers formed a circle around the male dancers, highlighting the bright colors of their outfits compared to the tan kurtas that male dancers wore. The students danced to a flute song and fell to the floor in unison as the stage went dark to complete their performance.

Men and women danced flirtatiously with each other in the University of Maryland’s performance of Rangeentarane. Female dancers let their long dresses flair during fast spins but were soon ushered off stage by three male dancers for their modern performance, complete with chair-banging and rap music.

Kinjal Kothari, a sophomore at the University of Maryland, said he did not have to take lessons to incorporate a traditional touch in his modern-style dance. Most of the dancers grow up watching and participating in traditional dances with family members, he said.

Although proceeds for the event have not been totaled and tickets were left unsold, Bakhru said the event was a pretty good success.

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