This year, for the first time in the history of the South Asian Society, attendants of the group’s “Jhalak” spring cultural show will receive not only entertainment but the satisfaction of participating in philanthropy. Organized in conjunction with Asian Pacific American Heritage month, “Jhalak” will consist of eight dancing and singing routines and an extravagant fashion show. During the event, students will have the opportunity to sign a petition and a portion of the proceeds from the show will be donated to an organization called Saath.
The seeds for the charity element of the show were planted during the Muslim Students’ Association-sponsored Muslim Students’ Awareness week in February. During that time, a lecture with Nishrin Hussein, a Gujarati activist, sparked students’ interest in addressing the Feb. 26, 2002, communal riots in Gujarat that left at least a thousand people dead. According to the group’s Web site, Saath, a non-government organization founded in 1989, seeks to make education and other resources available to vulnerable and economically underprivileged groups. Saath also seeks to elevate the status of Muslim women by giving them a central role in community initiative programs.
“Jhalak” will include several dance routines set to both American and South Asian pop music. Bollywood tunes and Punjabi bangra music are amalgamated with American hip-hop hits like “Get Low” and “Yeah.” The dancers juxtapose traditional elements of South Asian dancing with more modern moves in the same way the disparate genres of music for the routines are melded. Especially entertaining are the co-ed dances, in which the performers balance contemporary music with modestly romantic maneuvers. The couples each act out exaggerated tropes of male-female relationships such as the pursuant male and dismissive female in their entertaining dances. Especially commendable is the freshman girls’ dance performance, in which the dancers spiritedly swivel their hips and twist their wrists to a three-song medley.
But this variety of spirited contemporary dance isn’t the only draw. The show will also include classical Indian folk dance routines and singing. To increase awareness of the charitable cause, the group will make a presentation during intermission. Sailaja Paidipaty ’06, Publicity Chairperson of the South Asian Society, said SAS hopes to play an informative video clip about Saath to raise support for the cause.
Paidipaty said SAS chose to donate to Saath because the group felt confident in the group’s narrowness of focus.
“Saath is very specialized,” she said. “A lot of other organizations that we’ve donated to in the past just give money to India in general. It’s very important when addressing such a tumultuous cultural and religious situation to make sure the organization is impartial and that the money will actually be put toward positive work.”
This year’s decision to donate proceeds to an outreach program may start a tradition, Paidipaty said. The practice could be a vital tool in better integrating SAS not only with the Yale community but with the world at large.
“We want to have a lasting trend of linking all the different aspects of the organization — cultural, political, and social,” Paidipaty said. “In the past it was just a cultural show. But now it’s much more multi-faceted than just bringing songs and dances to the Yale community. We wanted to enlarge the scope of what we can do through this.”
“Jhalak” provides a high-spirited and amusing foray into a world far removed from New Haven. The humorous dances and accompanying skits are fun to watch whether one has knowledge of South Asian culture or not; the traditional dances and singing performances provide an opportunity to learn about and enjoy important aspects of South Asian history.
“It’s hard to predict how many people will come, especially in the springtime,” Paidipaty said. “But we hope to attract as many as we can. In the past we’ve had a great turnout, and because we’re donating proceeds this year, we’re really excited about that.”
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