Garba with Attitude

When one thinks of Indian dance, images of vivid colors, melodic beats and a unique spirit often come to mind. Indeed, it is all of these things, as well as a sizable history, that make Indian dance a fascinating sight to behold.
On Feb. 12, UCI’s Indian Subcontinental Club hosted its third annual ‘Garba With Attitude’ dance competition at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center.
Atul Kakkar, president of ISC, explained the origins and characteristics of raas dancing, the style performed at garba competitions.
‘The dance itself has many variations,’ Kakkar said. ‘Basically, however, it is a celebration and therefore performed on all auspicious occasions, whether festival or marriage, where both young and old can take part in the dance. Culturally speaking, this dance has been around for an extremely long time. Today, variations of this dance reflect the various lifestyles and the preferences of dance movement of a particular community of Gujarat, a state located on the West Coast of India. All variations, more or less, consist of rhythmic claps and clicks of sticks to the beat of a drum.’
This year’s competition attracted nine teams from all over the country, including George Washington University, Stanford University, Tufts University, the University of Texas, and the UC teams from Berkeley, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and of course, Irvine. Every year, more schools have prepared routines for Irvine’s increasingly popular event.
To organize and schedule a show of this magnitude with such a variety of participants took UCI’s ISC several months of planning. One of the biggest challenges was choosing a venue.
‘Show preparation started from the beginning of last summer and getting the theater was the hardest part,’ Kakkar said. ‘All the venues we initially looked at were booked about a year in advance. After that all the teams are finalized by the beginning of December. After winter break it was just a matter of getting all the logistics down. So it pretty much took about seven months to plan the competition.’
Of course, an equally vital portion of the planning went into UCI’s Garba team routine. These days, many teams, including UCI, have modernized the traditional Gujarati dance, adding a Western flair.
‘UCI’s routine this year is full of energy and passion. This year, the UCI Garba team put together a routine to a blend of techno music, house beats and traditional Garba songs,’ Kakkar said.
The competition was held on the Cal Sate Long Beach campus and featured a large stage with stadium style seating. This made it easy to see everything on stage, even from the very top rows.
Several effects were incorporated into the performances including lighting effects and sets built by the various teams.
In addition, a large screen was used to show short videos in between the performances. Most of these videos introduced each team before its performance.
In addition, ISC made several short videos. One introduced its members, while another did a parody of MTV’s ‘Made,’ in which a young Indian student wanted to be made into a Garba dancer.
All ages of people were in the audience, including countless families and friends of the performers. Although most in the audience were Indian, there were members of other ethnicities and cultures present.
The audience was extremely responsive to the performances and the videos, cheering excitedly when, for example, the performers would carry out an impressive dance move.
Even the opposing teams, which were usually sitting in the back, were cheering throughout the various performances.
Similarly, the audience reacted equally as excited during the videos, most of which were very well made and humurous.
While Stanford University’s traditional student-choreographed number took away the evening’s highest prize of $2,000, spirits were high at the afterparty, located at Exhibit Hall on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Students from nine universities came together, dancing and mingling until the morning hours.
In all, the highly anticipated event proved to be a success.