On a weeknight when most students are studying, relaxing or hanging out with friends, members of the Indian Students Organization, or ISA, are devoting their time to dance practice. They spend hours perfecting their timing, coordination and dance moves in preparation for their annual Diwali show.
Diwali is a holiday celebrated by followers of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and more. The holiday takes place over a span of five days, around the time of the new year on the Hindu lunar calendar. Each day is devoted to different activities from cleaning, meant to represent the wiping away of sins, to holding family gatherings and eating Indian sweets, called mithai.
“The celebration of the holiday is comparable to Christmas,” said ISA member Saagar Patel.
Many activities incorporate light as a representation for good, including firecrackers, lanterns and candles. Some of the larger events even feature firework displays.
“The holiday is meant to celebrate darkness overcome by light, and the good over evil,” said Diwali co-chair Tulsi Patel.
Every year, ISA hosts its Diwali event, which features over 70 student dancers. The event is structured similarly to a musical, with scenes of acting intermixed with large dance numbers.
“We choose to celebrate Diwali with dance because it is a huge part of the Indian culture, and we always like to celebrate by dancing,” said Tulsi Patel.
Each year the executive board members vote on a theme to design the performance. The themes are always comedic, and serve to shape the premise of the play. This year’s is “How I Met Your Bhabhi,” based on the popular sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”
Bhabhi translates to sister-in-law, and the play features an older brother explaining to his family how he met his wife. The dances will be interspersed between the scenes and feature dance styles from all different regions of India. The music mixes popular Indian and American music in an effort to bring together the two different cultures.
“We want to represent both Indian and American cultures,” said Tulsi Patel.
The members of ISA hold dance rehearsals for ten weeks prior to the performance, but according to Simren Cheema, one of the choreographers, the planning starts even earlier.
“We assign choreographers for Diwali at the end of the previous school year, so we start working way in advance,” said Cheema.
Hosting the event requires a great amount of people including a different choreographer for each dance number, actors, scriptwriters and crew members.
In addition to the acting and dance aspects of the show, there will also be a fashion show highlighting styles from different parts of India. The Miami hip-hop team will also perform a number during intermission. The Indian Students Association has invited them to perform for the last several years, in order to represent American dance tradition along with Indian dance tradition.
ISA will be promoting its annual philanthropy project at the event with a table set up to collect donations. All donations will be sent to World Relief in an effort to combat the effects of the hurricanes that devastated Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico in the past year.
This year’s event will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 10, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 11 in Hall Auditorium. Tickets cost $7 and can be purchased at ISA’s table in Armstrong across from Emporium or from Miami University’s Box Office.