On Saturday February 27, after getting off of the phone with an executive board member in charge of ticketing for the South Asian Showdown competition, I hastily grabbed my purse, coat and chapstick, and bolted out the door and down the street to the ATM. “The show is sold out, and we do have a few VIP tickets left here, but we’re not allowed to hold them…the doors open in ten minutes…you’d have to pay in cash.”
I had ordered my tickets online that Thursday, but the transaction was somehow disrupted, my only indication that this happened being that I never received a confirmation email. Having signed on to the official website an hour prior and being redirected to a page that read: “Sorry, ticket sales have ended,” these VIP tickets were my only option. I remember praying that no one had gotten ahold of those tickets. I sprinted through the doors of John Hancock Hall, approached the ticket booth, shortly thereafter realized that my prayers had indeed been answered.
Our second row seats enabled us to get up close and personal with all eleven of the teams that showed up to shut it down. Competing teams were both from local colleges and from colleges like Brown University, the University of Miami, and the University of Texas. Though the competition is mainly for Bollywood style dance, all of the teams dipped into other dance styles like hip hop, contemporary, and even step. The teams also incorporated some of today’s hottest pop, rap, and various types of Indian hip hop music selections. What these performers executed on that stage was absolutely incredible. I sat stunned and just completely taken aback while watching every group change from sequined pantaloons, to bedazzled bedlehs over what seemed to be a forty-five second time period. I’m not kidding, these guys really brought out the big guns! The stunts and series of formations I witnessed were what I concluded as being nothing but a result of lots of practice, persistence, and pure talent. The use of props and lighting was indescribable.
This year’s competitors were required to shape their routines around a movie theme, and before each team took the stage, a trailer they had created was projected on a white screen that hung below the curtains. A few spoof choices were Legally Blonde (2001), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), and Bride Wars (2006). Some teams actually incorporated important messages into their movies of choice, one team used the stage to place emphasis on female empowerment and another team turned their spotlight on domestic abuse. Boston University’s ‘Jalwa’ stepped onto the stage putting a trans lives matter twist on Pete Docter’s Oscar-award winning animated film Inside Out.
I luckily was able to grab a member from one of the competing teams during the show’s fifteen minute intermission. I had one question and one question only. While watching the show I took notice of not just the amazing props, or the fancy footwork and waistline-work, but I also took notice of the facial expressions the dancers donned while they did their thing. I nervously approached Aly Khan Rafiq, a student competing with New York City College of Technology’s ‘Toofan,’ and questioned him about why the facial expressions are so important when they perform. Rafiq replied with a grin, “Because we’re all so happy to be here, and so happy to be able to share our culture on this stage…it’s a matter of making up your mind that you want to do it, and just having fun!”