The University has many active and passionate dance teams, with Sharaara Dance Group being one of them. A South Asian team comprised of female and non-binary University students, the Sharaara Dance Group performs with spirit and precision to honor traditional styles from the Indian subcontinent. While the group has experience and multiple accolades, they are once again preparing for the challenge of representing the University on a national scale in the world of Bollywood fusion dance this year.
Though highly focused on competition, the group also prides itself on being a welcoming space for cultural expression. Shri Ramanujan, team captain and third-year Engineering student, said the group brings together multiple different styles into their dancing.
“Hip hop, for example, is one of the major [styles] that we pull a lot of inspiration from to mix with Bollywood and seeing all the styles from around the world come together is really cool,” Ramanujan said.
Recently, the team has brought on new dancers to begin preparing for competition. As the captains put it, the selection process for dancers is based primarily on “good vibes” — above all else, a dancer has to show genuine enthusiasm.
For Pragnya Pandrate, fourth-year Engineering student and team captain, her experience with the group’s welcoming nature has shaped her desire to help lead other dancers.
“I had never danced before I came to college, so it's really not about how well you're able to pick up choreo or how clean you do all the moves, it's just more about your willingness to learn, your ability to take feedback and implementing that because a lot of it is a really big learning curve,” Pandrate said.
While dancers may come into the team with little experience, the group is highly motivated to perform to the best of their ability. On average, the team practices for a full nine hours each week, while dancers balance their passion with the demands of schoolwork. It can be a lot to handle for the captains.
“We run practice, of course, which is Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, and then we have our own meetings outside of that,” Pandrate said, “It's a lot of logistics stuff, and also dance stuff. It keeps us pretty busy.”
All of this work is in service of representing the University and the team’s passion in competitions across the nation, with this year's team hoping to place in bid competitions in the the Desi Dance Network and Bollywood America dance circuits. The team’s success in these areas will determine if the captains’ goals can be met, especially after the pandemic was a reset for some of their hard work.
“You need to get into [bid competitions] and place to go to nationals, and that's our goal for this year,” Ramanujan said.
The bar is set high, but the captains also highlighted the importance of dancing for the sake of the art. To them, the experience of coming together and sharing a love of culture is where the team finds its strength.
Fourth-year College student and team captain Vindhya Srikanth said she has a desire to expand the team’s network and continue cultivating a love for Bollywood fusion.
“If you watch any Bollywood music video, all of the dances are just carried by so much joy and that's the reason why I dance,” Srikanth said, “I think that's the most important part. If that gets lost, I feel like the dance gets lost as well.”