East meets west — Garba incorporates traditional and modern dance

Strains of exotic dance music could be heard from the Travers/Wolfe main lounge last Friday night. Inside, members of the Indian Student Association (ISA) and interested students from the College participated in traditional Indian dances, backed by the sounds of a professional deejay.

It was all part of ISA’s Garba 2004, the second event sponsored by the newly formed organization.

“The main focus of Garba 2004 is to educate our campus and community on India’s rich culture,” Komal Gala, Garba’s coordinator and president of ISA, said.

According to the members of ISA, Garba is a special style of dance performed during the nine-day celebration of Navratri. Navratri honors gods and goddesses who were able to ward off evil spirits and forces. Thus, participants in Garba dance around them in order to celebrate the death of evil.

“People do Garba to show their resilience,” Mihir Vyas, sophomore biology major, said. “Doing Garba is a way of praying to the gods for strength.”

Most of Garba’s attendants wore traditional Indian garments. The girls wore flowing, brightly colored Chaniya Cholis, while the boys wore Kurta Payjamas. Both outfits are usually worn for special occasions, such as holidays, festivals and weddings.

The evening started off with traditional music from areas of eastern India. Later, the deejay played music from northern India, which had more of a hip-hop style beat.

The event was run as a fund-raiser for another of ISA’s endeavors – their South-Asian dance team. The team is called TCNJ Saathiya, which means togetherness.

Saathiya, which is comprised of many of ISA’s members, will be using the money earned during Garba 2004 to fund its trips to performances and competitions at other colleges and universities. On Nov. 6 its members danced at the University of Delaware, and on Nov. 20 they are scheduled to perform at Villanova University.

“The members of Saathiya are very dedicated. We work extremely hard,”Anish Doshi, sophomore pre-med student and vice president of ISA, said. “All of us are in this because we love Indian dance.”

After Doshi’s introduction of Saathiya, of which he is also a member, the group treated the audience at Garba to a preview of the routine it has been rigorously practicing throughout the course of the semester. The routine included many elements of traditional and modern Indian dance and was received with an enthusiastic response.

Directly following Saathiya’s performance, members of ISA taught Garba’s participants how to do traditional Indian stick dancing called Raas. Later, the Deejay remained, and the floor was opened to club music.

Although this is ISA’s second attempt to bring the spirit and culture of Garba to students in the College community, they were more successful this year than last. Early in the night, ISA had already met the quota it had set in order to break even for the event. Curious students continued to pour in throughout the night, intrigued by what they saw and heard as they peeked into the T/W lounge.

“Since Rutgers and another college in Philadelphia had their Garba tonight as well, we really wanted to reach out to the campus community,” Nikhil Thaker, a sophomore pre-med student and coordinator of publicity for ISA, said. “By the end of the night, we expect to have at least two times as many people as we had last year, both from (the College) and the surrounding area.”

Although Thaker said ISA did a great deal more advertising for the event this year, he also attributes the large turnout to word of mouth. “The few people who came out last year saw how much fun it was. So this year, they came out and brought more people with them,” he said.