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Dancers perform in traditional outfits at India Night, an event organized by the University of Georgia Indian Cultural Exchange on Feb. 2, 2019 at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia. The event showcased different dance teams from around the country blending traditional Indian dance with contemporary themes. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

Dance teams from universities across the nation traveled to Athens to compete in the 2019 University of Georgia India Night. The dancers performed a fusion of American pop, contemporary, hip hop or rap with Kathak, Bhangra, Bollywood fusion and other forms of contemporary and classical Indian music, with the University of Cincinnati’s Maleficent”-themed dance taking home the gold.

India Night started when the director for the evening Shikha Patel, a senior majoring in sociology, international affairs and criminal justice, took to the stage. After introducing herself, she introduced the theme for the show. This year, the board decided to focus on suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

Prior to each performance, videos were shown to give a prelude to what the performance will be about. Each performance was distinct in terms of song choice.

Each dance was entirely original and distinguishable due to the variations in costumes, choreography, music and set design. The performers kept the audience captivated for each second they remained on stage. Audience members kept their eyes glued to the dancers from all across the U.S. as they performed for a row of judges .

While one group made their performance a parody of “La La Land,” another did theirs on “Coco,” and another did a parody of “Up.” Georgia Institute of Technology's Qurbani’s performance centered around “The Bachelorette” while UC centered theirs around “Maleficent.” The University of California, Santa Barbara’s group Taara’s performance taught a lesson about appreciating what truly matters, friends and people we love, rather than pushing them away on the path to future success.

“My roommate is in one of the dance groups, and I'm a huge supporter,” Connor Bowler, a freshman management information systems and accounting major at UGA, said. “I went to Tamasha in the Fall and it's very similar. It's a lot of fun and I love it.”

After intermission, the performances continued to create stories, evoke emotion and generate awe. Pockets of the crowd would whoop and cheer when they heard the most popular Bollywood or another classical music hit.

“I went last year and I loved it a lot, so I wanted to come back again,” Alafia Adeleke, a junior PR major, said.

For Georgia Tech groups such as Qurbani and ATL Tanishq, which included members from schools around Atlanta, large parts of the crowd would shout, sing along and dance in their seats if the energy was right. They kept their eyes on stage to catch all the movements, appreciate colors and understand the choreography.

The final performance was a UGA favorite, Classic City Bhangra. As soon as the team arrived onstage, the crowd came to life once more as the evening was getting late by this point and much of the crowd had left in order to go to the After Party. Their colorful and dynamic performance left the audience feeling content with all the performances they had witnessed. The exhibition performances done by the UGA groups, which included Champa & Chameli, Classic City Bhangra, Georgia Saazish and UGA Kalakaar wouldn’t be judged, but they remained great points of pride for many UGA members of the audience.

“I love all the Georgia teams. My heart goes out to CCB, Chumpa and Saazish,” sophomore biology major Livya Mathew said. “I like how they represent mental health and tell a story about it and bring light to that. I also like Chumpa's performance because it’s hard living as a refugee or living and dealing with depression and mental health issues.”

In the end, it came down to three teams. First place was Dhadak from the University of Cincinnati, second place was Qurbani from Georgia Tech and third place was Kahaani from the University of Washington.

Events like this not only award the winners and reward the highest standards in the world of dance, but they also showcase the diversity of the nation and the creative fruits of this blending of South Asian and Western music, dance, fashion and media.

“I think it's just a really awesome way to highlight a cultural experience that a lot of students at UGA don't acknowledge that much, so it's a fun celebration of it. It's also a fun way to bring a lot of people together, so I just really love it,” Adeleke said.

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