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November 11, 2010 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-11-11

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4B - Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.col

4 H T o r 2 MW
IASA: Bhangra, Bollywood and hip hop

Cultural show
celebrates its 23rd
year in style
Now in its 23rd year, the exorbi-
tantly energetic, fiercely entertain-
ing cultural show
put on by the
Indian American Samiasti:
Student Associa- Elements
tion (IASA) ranks
among the most
iconic of Univer- Tomorrow
sity experiences, at 7 p.m.
Like painting Hill Auditorium
"The Rock" and Tickets from $12
attending a game
at the Big House,
watching the IASA show - the big-
gest student-run production in the
country, according to its coordina-
tors - should be an essential part of
the University curriculum.
The performance, boasting 250
participants this year, is an annual
showcase of Indian culture through
song and dance. Tomorrow's show,
titled "Samasti," is paired with the
thematically significant tagline
"Elements of Illusion."
"We wanted to portray how
the different styles and dances of
India represent the many cultures
in India and how they all come
together as one to form the overall
national identity," said Engineer-
ing senior Rohan Agarwal, the
show's co-coordinator alongside
LSA senior Nina Davuluri. "And we
thought that using elements kind of
as a metaphor would help describe
that whole process."
For the uninitiated, India is
about as culturally diverse as some
entire continents. The country has
more than 20 distinct regional lan-
guages, several major religions and
dozens upon dozens of unique eth-
nic groups. Native Hindi speakers
from Delhi could take a trip to the
southern state of Andhra Pradesh,
where the dominant language is
Telugu, and find themselves unable
to read signs or communicate with
the locals.
States in southern India even
have theirownboomingfilmindus-

According to the show coordinators, the IASA Cultural Show is the largest student-run production in the country.

tries with songs and styles very dis-
tinct from those of Bollywood, the
Hindi film industry based in Bom-
bay. Accordingly, the IASA show
includes a South Indian dance, fea-
turing songs from those industries.
Other dances drawn from specific
subcultures include Bhangra, a
dance native to the northern region
of Punjab, and Raas, a dance from
the region of Gujrat that uses sticks
called "dhandia" that the dancers
twirl and bang together.
"(Raas relies) heavily on forma-
tion - it's a very energetic dance
that requires precision," Agarwal
said. "It all depends on the partner
and the hitting of the dhandia. (The
dancers) are never still in dancing,
always moving from one formation
to another, or around their partner
and back and forth."
More returning favorites to
"Samasti" includethe sultry, seduc-
tive Gypsy dance; the Bollywood
dance, which uses popular songs
and dances from the Bombay film
industry; and Village, a traditional
dance that represents the customs
of rural India. The all-girl Classi-
cal dance, which is choreographed
with ancient Indian dances styles,
is also back. But this time, the
dance has been tweaked to make it
more accessible.
"In this year's Classical they

are blending more modern, main-
stream songs than just the classical
songs," Davuluri said. "There's a
Bollywood song in there and Amer-
ican songs in there, so it makes it
easier to interact with the audi-
"Samasti" features the addition
of two new dances, titled "Fusion"
and "Elements."
"The Elements dance was
sparked by the theme. ... People
wanted to do a fire-themed dance,
so we decided to turn it into to a
dance that would incorporate all
the elements, which worked out
really well," Davuluri said.
The dance features songs that
make reference to the four classical
elements: air, water, earth and fire.
Earth, for instance, is represented
by a thunderous bhangra dance and
fire by a passionate, highly viva-
cious routine.
Each dance is performed to a
medley of songs, and the choreog-
raphers of the brand-new Fusion
dance decided to mix up their
selection, choosing songs from
bhangra, Bollywood and American
hip hop. Fusion embodies the flat-
tening of the world and the subse-
quent blending of American and
Indian culture. The influence of the
West's cultural dominance has long
left a mark on India, but the past

few years have seen Indian culture
pervade into mainstream Ameri-
can culture like never before - just
look at "Slumdog Millionaire" and
"Outsourced," which regularly fea-
tures Bollywood music in its epi-
"Kids these days over (in India)
don't just listen to Indian music or
American music, but kind of a mix
now," Davuluri said. "There are
also a lot of Indian people doing
hip hop, and there's a lot of remix-
es between Indian and American
The Fusion dance was actually
pitched to the show coordinators
by its choreographers, Engineering
junior Ankur Agrawal, Business
junior Divya Toshniwal and LSA
junior Sanjay Kataria.
"We like bhangra, Bollywood
and hip hop, and IASA didn't really
have any hip hop, so we thought it
would be cool to combine all three,"
Agrawal said.
"(We) are big Bollywood people
and we were on the Bhangra Team,
so we know a lot of those songs,"
Toshniwal said.
Agrawal, Toshniwal and Kataria
have been choreographing their
dance for months, song by song,
through a combination of free-
styling and planned moves. Their
dance is a true fusion - not only
do the song choices vary between
the three genres, but audiences
should plan to see unconventional
pairings of song and dance style:
for instance, a bhangra dance
style performed to a hip-hop
song and hip-hop dance moves

set to a Bollywood song. As for the
American selection, the choreog-
raphers promise the audience will
hear "That Girl" by Frankie J and
"A Milli" by Lil Wayne, along with
other surprises.
That exhaustive list of dances
has been in the works since the
beginning of the calendar year,
when Agarwal and Davuluri were
chosen by the IASA executive
board to be the coordinators for the
cultural show. After holding inter-
views, the duo then chose seven
IASA members to form the show's
core. These unsung heroes accom-
plish all the gritty work behind the
scenes to make the show a mon-
strous success.
Collectively, the group then
interviewed choreographers and
assigned them dances in the spring.
Then, in mid-September, dance
participants entered a lottery that
sorted them into their dances. This
year, the show received an incred-
ible 350 applications for the dances,
which had to be pared down to just
Then began the intensive two-
month period during which the
time commitment to IASA expo-
nentially increases and anyone
with friends in the show starts to
think, "Why the hell are my IASA
friends so busy all the time?"
Until the night of the perfor-
mance, participants put in six to
nine hours a week, practicing their
dance moves into the wee hours
of the morning, with sprinkled-in
dress rehearsals and events build-
ing a tight community.

"We want there to be chemistr
in the dances so that they becom
a better product on stage," sai
show core member and Busines
sophomore Nikhil Kulkarni. "Bu
also this year, we wanted to tr
to emphasize one dance gettin
to know another dance. So tha
would mean they would go sho
each other each other's dances an
critique them, or by going to differ
ent IASA events, they get to mee
people outside and that just help,
everybody all around."
This two-month commitment i,
merely a supplement to the enor-
mous workload already bestowed
upon many University students
But all the time invested is abso
lutely crucial to the show's promi
"It's notjust students and friend
and family that go to the show,'
Agarwal said. "It's residents fro
Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan
that actually come to see a profes-
sional show put on by students."
"They don't look at it like a stu-
dent activity or anything, they
look at it as a legitimate show," he
continued. "So we have to make
sure we put on a professional show,
which means our choreographers
have to make really good dances,
and our dancers have to put in a
lot of practice so that they give off
the appearance that they are pro-
fessional dancers on stage - even
though a majority of them have
never danced before, or done any
sort of training in any of the dances
that we're teaching. So that's what
takes hours and hours for the past
two months to do."
This dedication to maximizing
the professionalism of the show
is what carries "Samasti" into the
upper echelon of great University
productions. And on top of all the
effort, the money earned from the
performance is going to charity. All
the proceeds from tickets are going
to OneWorld Health, a nonprofit
that develops inexpensive medi-
cine for people in the third world.
As demanding as the process can
be, the participants have an abso-
lute blast throughout the show.
"You learn how to do this dance
with a lot of other people, and it's
a good experience," said LSA junior
Akhil Kher, a first-time participant
in the Village dance who has been
waiting since he came to the Uni-
versity to have time to do the show.
"You have to put ina lot to the prac-
tices but even though it takes a lot
of your time it's definitely a lot of

Appreciate the 'Ordinary'

Now through December 30th
TO 844778 (THiRST)
and you could WIN a
$500 Coke Cash Card
or other Coke prizes!*

Daily Arts Writer
Even an art enthusiast might
be mystified by the relationship
between a wood-turned teapot
and a gourd-
fashioned ani- Out of the
mal, but such
is the nexus Ordinary:
explored in Selectns
"Out of the
ordinary: from the
Selections Bohlen Wood
from the Art and
Bohlen Wood
Art and Fus- Fusfeld Folk
feld Folk Art
Collection." A
"Out of the Through June 26
Ordinary" UMMA
woodturningworks alongside 19th-
and 20th-century folk art pieces.
The exhibition space is divided into
the Bohlen and Fusfeld collections,
both of which, according to Senior
Curator of Western Art Carole
McNamara, were donated before
UMMA's renovation and expan-
According to art history Ph.D.
student and guest co-curator Kris-
tine Ronan, the exhibition's title
reflects the collaborative vision of
co-curators Joseph Proctor (associ-
ate curator of modern and contem-
porary art), Ruth Slavin (UMMA
director of education) and McNa-
"Part of that title - for these par-
ticular collections especially - is
that these aren't the kinds of works
that are traditionally seen in a
museum," Ronan said. "Contempo-
rary woodturning art is a very new
collecting field, and it also has only
in the last five to 10 years actually
been in exhibitions and large muse-
ums, and so in that sense it's not the
ordinary museum show you would
potentially see. And American folk
art has a similar kind of story."
In woodturning, artists place
wood on a lathe - a machine that
spins material on an axis - and
use pressure to apply a tool (which
can range from a chisel to a chain-

saw, ac
this ro
tive of,
out pra
and for
tion of
coral t
for soc
of fun
be use
said. "I
these a
it kind
the hon
ing to
and di

cording to Ronan) to fashion sculptures of Minnie Black. The
s as the wood spins. From works vary in their pictorial repre-
tation are born all sorts of sentation, ranging from historical
and art pieces. Although the allusions (including a pen drawing
ed works are technically con- of George Washington by Emma
rary - they were all created Martin) to scenes of rural America
en 1994 and 2002 - the exhi- (like P.J. Hornberger's By the Light
details the historical narra- of the Moon, a painting of children
woodturning as an art form. splashing in autumn leaves).
ording to Ronan, the early Much like its woodturning
entury development of the counterpart, the folk collection
al, non-industrial lathe conveys the evolution of the folk
d the growth of American movement and provokes a para-
rial arts education in the digm shift about folk art. Trained
which emphasized wood- artists such as 19th-century
g as a functional practice; painter Erastus Salisbury Field
rneration artists churned are featured, which according to
actical objects like plates and Ronan dispels a perception of folk
Later generations, using dif- art as only the art of the everyday,
forms like fire and more com- untrained individual. Also dis-
d lathes, stressed aesthetics played is 20th-century folk art.
m over function. Ronan says the term "self-taught"
such later artist is,,Alain artist emerged during this time,
nd, whose earthy forms and that's when artists begin to
mes discard the traditional solicit galleries for feature.
ance of wood. His Stone "One of the appeals of folk art
(2000), for example, is a I think is that it is not that far
vertically stacked coagula- removed from you or me, so the
'bulbous forms that, at first idea (emerged) that either we could
learn to make it, we could make
it eventually if we practice really
hard, or we could afford to buy
s the wood it perhaps and put it in our own
home," Ronan said.
'ns at UM M A. So why is something so linked to
the "everyday" experience consid-
ered "out of the ordinary"?
looks more like stone or "I think that's one of the reasons
han the elm out of which it is why these two discrete collections
aed. lend themselves nicely to'a shared
an cautions, though, that interpretive approach," McNamara
nal and aesthetic qualities said. "I think the kind of dedicated
mutually exclusive. vision, the kind of innovative vision
oodturning) is an art form and other concerns you were to
me. It's a play with the idea find in great 'high art' you would
ction, that it can actually also find in art that is self-taught or
d in a home, it's just a very naive."
ul object to be used," Ronan Not only is the exhibition linked
But at the same time, some of through its deconstruction of tra-
are so beautiful that people ditionally held perceptions about
not dare touch them, and so higher, perhaps more difficult art,
of becomes a sculpture ... in but also through its enhancement
use or where it's owned." of the museum's accessibility.
Fusfeld collection, though "The appeal of contemporary
r than the Bohlen accord- woodturning and again, folk art as
McNamara, is expansive well, is the idea that it breaks those
verse in its selected media, stereotypes of what a museum
Ing' folk paintings, wood actually can put on display," Ronan
gs, drawings and the gourd said.



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