What once was the dim, spacious void of the Jesse Hall Auditorium, erupts into a world of sound, color and culture for India Nite Oct. 27.
Dancers paint the stage with vivid shades of orange, purple and green, the gold chains decorating their necks gently chiming as they move. Bollywood music blares through the auditorium speakers, but you can still hear the bands of bells around their ankles clinking as they stomp to the beat. As each of the twenty performances concludes the audience, adorned in the same colorful clothing as the performers, comes alive with applause.
India Nite is an annual two-hour long showcase of Indian culture, involving a variety of dance and musical performances. The University of Missouri’s Cultural Association of India (CAI) sponsors and runs the event. This year, children, artists and community members alike congregated to experience and participate in the program.
“It showcases everything about Indian culture from music, band performances, major classical dances of India involving Kathak, Bharatanatyam everything,” CAI President Vinita Bhagchandani said. “So it’s a great platform for everyone who wants to perform or who wants to see the culture of India or who just wants to enjoy an amazing performance.”
“Dancing has always been a huge part of my life, and it’s one of the biggest ways I feel like I can connect to my culture when I am separated from it.”
Rock Bridge students, including junior Kanchan Hans, took part in the performances as a way to celebrate their heritage. She organized the Bhangra dance group “COMOtion”, with several other RBHS students. Hans described the importance of dancing at India Nite to feel closer to her culture.
“Dancing has always been a huge part of my life, and it’s one of the biggest ways I feel like I can connect to my culture when I am separated from it,” Hans said. “India Nite is one of the largest Indian festivities in Columbia, so dancing in it means I get to share my talents and my culture with those who may not be familiar with it.”
Although the majority of performers and attendees were Indian, many non-Indian individuals came to observe and participate. Among them was junior Jerry Hou who performed with the “COMOtion” group.
“I just got to learn the culture a lot more,” Hou said, “especially the dance moves,”
Prominently displayed on the India Nite fliers was “FREE and Open to All.” Junior Anushka Jalisatgi believed this inclusive attitude was essential to the event.
“I think it’s really cool to have non-Indians participate in this stuff [event] because it isn’t just an Indian showcase. It’s an Indian exchange of culture and exchange of ideas and traditions,” Jalisatgi said. “So to have people who aren’t Indian come and experience and learn it really just brings a sense of unity in our increasingly polarized world.”
Bhagchandani emphasized the importance of opening India Nite to individuals of all backgrounds. She believes these efforts will help foster more cultural tolerance in Columbia.
“I think that it’s very important for everyone to be involved,” Bhagchandan said. “… it’s very very important [to] actually know about different cultures and be more welcoming to everyone and to accept everyone as they are.”