Saathiya selected to dance at Columbia University Competition

For thousands of years, Indian dance has been an art that brings out the innermost feelings while depicting the cultural aspects of a civilization. This great form of communication has now become part of the College community through Saathiya.

Saathiya, a group of students that who are part of the Indian Student Association (ISA) at the College, was recently chosen to attend Naach Nation III, a competition held to display the best in Indian Dance among college communities.

Columbia University hosts Naach Nation III, which will take place on March 5 at the Roone Arledge Auditorium on Columbia’s campus.

The event celebrates the beauty and diversity of South Asian dance and raises money for a charitable cause.

This year, a significant portion of the proceeds will go toward a charity that supports the re-development of the tsunami-ravaged lands.

The tradition of Naach Nation started on Oct. 19, 2002 when seven university dance troupes united at Columbia University in New York City. This was followed by the second annual Naach Nation on Oct. 11, 2003.

Over 1,400 audience members from the tri-state area gathered to support this endeavor.

“We were ecstatic when we found out about Naach Nation III, it is such a huge show and we are honored to be dancing with some of the best South Asian dance troupes in the country,” Amit Shah, freshman biology major and co-manager of the Saathiya, said.

Types of dance displayed at the competition on Saturday will include Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Odissi and Monipuri as well as non-classical folk styles, such as Bhangra and Garba.

“Saathiya tries to acknowledge all types of dance,” Shah said. “Everything from classical to Hindi to Bhangra to hip-hop, and its main goal is to enlighten and dazzle its audience with performances that aim to fuse together different styles of Indian and American dance.”

There will be nine groups performing in all, including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Drexel University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Columbia University and the College. Each dance troupe had to submit an audition tape and be selected as one of the best in order to actually be in the show.

Managers Amit Shah and Tina Shah, along with costume coordinator Belinda Michael, and choreographer Jose Zuniga have all been working hard to prepare the group for the competition. They believe that the team will do wonderfully at Columbia.

For many South Asians, cultural dance has evolved from a pastime into an indispensable means of proudly maintaining a deeply embedded South Asian heritage and culture, extending into the College community in the last decade.

Saathiya started in Spring 2004 when a few members of ISA who shared a common interest in dance decided to start a team.

“These are students who had a dream to assemble a team that would educate others about the diversity of Indian culture,” Amit Shah said.

The team has now grown into an established and well-supported group which includes 18 members, eight of which will be dancing in the competition.

“Saathiya started out as a dream for us and our dreams are finally coming true,” Tina Shah, junior biology major, said.

“Saathiya actually means togetherness in Hindi, and ever since the start of the dance team I felt everyone is like a family member to me sharing the love of dance,” Sangita Desai, junior finance major and treasurer of Saathiya, said.

“We are also in a competition called Sapna on April 16th and I cannot wait, our theme is going to be Arabian nights,” Desai said. “I hope that the support for our team will continue to grow in the College community.”