On 12th November, the South Asian Cultural Exchange (SACE) organized the biggest student-run multicultural performance on campus, Diwali. I have been a part of this annual showcase ever since freshman year, and every year I try to mix things up and perform a different dance. Diwali has a host of dances, such as classical, fusion, Bollywood etc. but the one I like watching the most has always been Bhangra, a folk dance from the Punjab region in India. Bhangra is a really tough dance and is an intense workout, but I had the best choreographers at Vanderbilt, Sri and Waleed, both of whom are award-winning Bhangra dancers in the Bhangradores!
Here’s a list of reasons why participating in Diwali has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had on campus:
1. Dance. I’m not much of a dancer, but practicing for 4 hours every week for 2 months gave me enough confidence to dance in front of 1100 people in the Langford auditorium! Bhangra is one of the most energetic dances in India, and doing fun Bhangra steps was a great way for me to take a break from the routine of everyday life. Waleed and Sri fused pop songs such as Closer and Worth It with traditional Bhangra tunes, which made the music very vibrant and enjoyable to dance to. Check out our dance here!
2. New friends: I was in Bhangra Black, a group of 36 Vandy students from all parts of campus. Although I knew many people in our group already, there were many others I hadn’t met, but by the time of the showcase, we all bonded over our love of dance, culture, and music. I’ve made so many friends since freshman year by taking part in Diwali, and met so many people I wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet so easily otherwise. And the best part is that even though Diwali is a Indian festival, the best dancers in my group were Americans, who picked up traditional Indian dance moves much before I did!
3. Culture: Diwali is a phenomenal way to celebrate the richness of cultural diversity on campus. Some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had at Vanderbilt have been initiated by people unfamiliar with but curious about Indian culture. “What is Diwali?” “Where does Bhangra come from?” “How do you celebrate Diwali in India?” “What’s a samosa?” These simple questions lead to immensely interesting conversations, and it’s so rewarding for me to share a part of my culture with people who want to learn more.
Of course, a big part of culture is food, and SACE organized a pre-show dinner full of scrumptious Indian dishes, and I got my American friends to try food they’d never eaten before, but now love wholeheartedly!