The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

India Night shines a light on South Asian song and dance

The University’s Indian Student Association hosted India Night on Saturday at Foellinger Auditorium. South Asian teams from across campus showcased their talent for song and dance on the lit stage.

From 6-9 p.m., the musical celebration featured dynamic performances from multiple RSOs, ranging from the a capella group Chai Town to the classical Indian dance team UIUC Dheem.

Aarushi Raathor, vice president of communications at ISA, emphasized the importance of providing the South Asian community a platform to celebrate their culture, whether they were international students or students born and raised in America.

“You have all these different people from different backgrounds, but they still share that same desire of wanting to find their place,” Raathor said. “I think no matter what identity you are or what ethnicity you are or where you’re from, everyone has that desire in them to find a place, especially on a college campus.”

Before the doors opened at 5:30 p.m., a line of people had already wrapped around the balcony railing of Foellinger and was filled with audible excitement for the night ahead. 

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In the minutes leading up to the performance, entertainers rushed around the auditorium in traditional desi garb of various colors and urban streetwear.

After renditions of the United States and Indian national anthems, the night began with an introduction from the emcees, who riled up the audience with jokes and playful banter. They then engaged in a makeshift breakdance competition before introducing the first act for the evening, Chai Town.

The South Asian a capella group encouraged the audience to sing and clap along as they performed a medley of songs like Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” and “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic.

They were followed by UIUC Dheem, a team of five classical Indian dancers dressed in glittering traditional regalia and ankle bells that rang with each movement. They tapped their feet in time with the Hindi music and danced around the glowing plastic candles that covered the stage. 

UIUC Fizaa took a different approach by reenacting the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” storyline through dance. Voiceovers of the characters played over the speakers, interrupted by dance battles led by dancers dressed as Zuko and Azula.

Many RSOs that performed were also nationally recognized in collegiate a capella and dance competitions, such as Illini Raas, who placed third at nationals the week before. For the competitive Indian folk dance team, this was their first time performing at a school event.

As the last performance of the night, Illini Raas entered the stage in light blue jerseys equipped with Garba dance sticks. The performers twirled and waved the sticks at breakneck speeds while high-energy music played in the background.

At one moment during the dance, they began to shout the University’s famous call and response, “I-L-L, I-N-I.”

Kisha Patel, team captain of Illini Raas and member of the ISA board, spoke about the appeal of performing at India Night.

“The size is something of magnitude, but at the same time, it’s so cool that you get to perform for people that are your friends and go to your classes and (who) you see on the street walking around and acquaintances and such,” Patel said. “They don’t get to see that side of you that’s a performer.”

India Night is the culmination of many months of practice from the dancers. Patel expressed her excitement about finally showing off what they’ve been working on.

“Everyone goes to practice weekly, all for the fact that they get to show this performance off once and this thing they’ve been creating for the entire year once, and that’s tonight,” Patel said. “There’s so much that builds up to it for them.”


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