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  • Aditi Warrier

A Performance to Remember: The Abhinaya Showcase, Spring ‘23

Updated: May 11, 2023

Abhinaya, Ashoka University’s Dance Society, held its end-semester showcase last Friday, April 28th, 2023, at Dr. Reddy’s Auditorium. Organized the night before International Dance Day, both the Indian and Western Core teams brought their best energy, talent and passion to each performance, and the audience responded in kind – truly a celebration of dance.

The auditorium was filled almost half an hour before the show was set to begin, and I, like many others, had to sit on the floor. None of us seemed to mind, because the only thing on our minds was anticipation for what was to come. The hosts for the evening, Vedika Mehendale and Purujit Banwasi, walked onto the stage amidst loud cheers and announced the beginning of the showcase.

The first performance, a medley of different styles of Indian classical dances set to an entirely instrumental track, was met with thunderous cheers, including a “Marry me, Divya!” that I happened to overhear. These were alternated with pieces by the Western Core, one of which was set to the theme of Broadway Jazz.

Some of the choreographies involved highly rigorous styles. Most traditional Indian dance forms such as Odissi, Bharatanatyam and Kathak are known to be quite strict, requiring several years of training. But the show saw dancers who hadn’t trained in these forms performing them seamlessly. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference if I hadn’t known a few of the dancers in my personal capacity.

“Abhinaya is a space where we encourage all our members to experiment with different styles irrespective of their training,” said Kavya Ganesh (UG ‘23), the club’s head. Throughout the semester, Abhinaya’s dancers practice weekly in multiple different styles to fine-tune their techniques and forms. For showcases and performances, almost all dancers perform pieces that involve “movement vocabularies they were not necessarily professionally trained in.” It is an extremely rigorous club, but for good reason – it creates a strong community of dancers who learn from one another. The hours they put in shone through the dancers’ seamless transitions from one form to the other.

The fluidity of these styles only goes to show the exceptional talent that Abhinaya nurtures and showcases in their performances. Some performances even saw members of both the Indian and Western teams dancing together, including an incredible fusion piece set to ‘Unholy’ by Sam Smith. Dance forms from rather diverse backgrounds were featured: kuthu, a popular, percussion-focused dance form primarily from Tamil Nadu; heels choreographies, a contemporary form of dance performed contingent upon the dancers wearing heels, usually stilettos; and afro, a set of rhythmic dance styles from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The audience went wild at every performance, both cheering on their friends (“That’s my baby!”) and in rapture at the sheer skill and beauty of the dances. The hosts also kept the audience well-engaged during the three short breaks that facilitate costume changes. They made entertaining comments on the then-ongoing Student Government elections, took a BeReal on stage, and made references to Café Aroma – all witty remarks on various other aspects of campus culture. There was even a break where a Just Dance tutorial played on screen, which saw the whole crowd up on their feet and dancing, and one where they invited audience members on stage to perform a sort of dance-off using popular Bollywood hook steps.

There were two solo performances – the first was Rianna Basu’s (UG '24), who did a remarkable jazz choreography to Beggin’ by Maneskin. The technique was perfect, and her high energy and captivating expressions had the audience at the edge of their seats with excitement. The second performance was Kavya Ganesh’s breathtaking Bharatanayam representation of “divine femininity.” Her rendition was in line with her TEDx talk earlier this semester, where she expressed her desire to keep her dance form’s style of storytelling accessible to even the untrained eye. She portrayed the strength, anger, love and motherly affection of goddesses, and at one point, even had tears in her eyes to show emotion.

Another marvellous product of the showcase, called “Looping,” began with a call for the audience to remain silent so that they could “record the music live.” Conceptualized in collaboration with Vistaar, this was the dance version of Acapella — the only accompaniment to the movement was the resounding beats made by the dancers' own hands and feet, and a recording of the voice assistant, Siri, which was looped to create the track. The entire auditorium watched in spellbound silence, erupting in applause as soon as the piece concluded

The final performance was a farewell to the seniors of Abhinaya – set to the very popular songs ‘Pungi’, ‘Gaddi Red Challenger’, ‘Malhari’, and ‘Oo Antava’. Dancers came down from the stage to the floor of the auditorium to dance amongst the audience members, and I think it is safe to say everyone, including myself, was a little bit emotional. Finally, we saw Kavya Ganesh, Head of Abhinaya; Nandini Bohra and Shreya Khobragade, Heads of Western core; and Mahika Sampat and Shreedaya Arvind, Heads of Indian core, signing off.

Abhinaya has had a remarkable semester, winning competitions at SNU, Jindal, and WUD, as well as collaborating with other groups here on campus, including the Northeast Collective, Jazbaa, and Mad Batter. They’ve also taken steps to make dance a more accessible activity with fortnightly workshops and a Peer Learning program. The showcase was a beautiful crescendo in what proved to be a glorious time for dance at Ashoka.

Picture Credits: Caperture, The Photography Society of Ashoka University

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