Hear “Indian dance competition” and think “Not for me?” Well, think again.
A swirling rainbow of bright and dazzling costumes accentuated by sparks of fiery reflections from the mirror-work on the fabric. Shining silver dandiya sticks, eighteen inches long and twirling so fast in the hands of the dancers they’re almost invisible. Crisp and exuberant dance steps and arm motions in continuous rhythm, and even the audience can feel the workout. Complement the traditional Indian music with disco, hip hop, and other modern genres, add in fans so excited you’d think they’re in Assembly Hall, and prepare to have your mind blown.
“Raas” (a variation of dance called “Garba”) is an ancient devotional Hindu dance honoring a fight between the Goddess Durga and the demon-king Mahishasura. This dance has become more popular in the US over the last ten years, especially among college students of Indian heritage as a way to stay connected to their roots and show off how exciting raas really is. If you’ve been to Raas Royalty 2013, you know just what I’m talking about.
Every year, the IU Hoosier Raas team hosts Raas Royalty, an official regional competition on the way to the Raas All-Stars National Championship. Last year, eight teams competed for the top three spots, earning three, two, or one point toward qualifying for Nationals in Dallas in March 2013. The competitors included University of Michigan, Purdue University, University of Houston, University of Pittsburgh, University of Illinois-Chicago, Ohio State University, University of California-Irvine, and Saint Louis University. Each team had a theme, such as “MonsteRaas Inc.” or “Raasketball” or “Your Raas Nightmare” which they incorporate into their music and dance.
And judging by the loyal fans who trekked all over the country to support their raas teams, you can imagine how loud this competition can get. IU Auditorium was absolutely filled with echoes of team cheers and friendly banter between rivals competing for the crown. Last year, some fans even had vuvuzelas. The roar of the crowd and the thunderous applause made the populated auditorium seem more like a sports arena than a theater, and the teams fed off the wild exuberance of their fans.
If you’ve never been to Raas Royalty, this is one of the coolest cultural events on campus, organized completely by students and benefiting a different charity each year, like this year’s beneficiary, Timmy Global Health. It’s free and it’s a little over two hours long, leaving you the rest of your night to enjoy. This year, the event is happening on February 8th! Keep up to date by following them at @raasroyalty on Twitter!