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Laasya 2010 - A Delightful Dance Experience

Sangeetha Vijey

Click to watch the entire show on mit techtv.

 The Indian classical dance form took center stage at MIT Kresge on Feb. 20, 2010 as MIT Natya and BU Dheem hosted the first North American Intercollegiate Classical dance competition. While the temperature outside was freezing as is expected in a typical February weekend, the fire and passion for Indian dance was burning bright inside MIT Krege and warmed the hearts of dance aficionados as six teams from all over the country competed for the top two spots. The beautiful Kolam (Rangoli) in the Kresge Lobby, the lamp at the center of the Kolam and the Kanakambaram flowers (orange flowers) adorning the façade of Kresge set the appropriate ambience and prepared the eclectic audience for the classical dance extravaganza that awaited them inside the auditorium. The brochure claimed that the aim of Laasya was to spread greater cultural awareness and promote classical arts. It was heartening to see young Indian-American students in the age range of 18-22 show such passion for keeping up the Indian cultural dance tradition. The fact that a portion of the proceeds was donated to the Haiti earthquake victims’ relief fund, signified the performing students’ social consciousness. Case Western Reserve’s Nritya, Harvard’s Deepam, UPenn’s Thillana University of Maryland’s Moksha, Rutgers University’s Natya and Johns Hopkins Shakti were the six competing teams while MIT Natya and BU Dheem, who were the hosts presented showcase pieces.


The presentation opened with a beautiful Ganesh Vandana by BU students. Arun Saigal (MIT) and Kaminie Balkaran (Boston University), who served as MCEEs for the program welcomed the audience and introduced the various teams. The show open with MIT’s Natya’s non-competing performance, Red Sun set to the music Anoushka Shankar. All the teams danced to both classical and semi classical music. In these 20 something crowd, choice of fusion music was palpable. The dancers demonstrated their versatility in editing the music meticulously to stay within the confines of Natya traditions and yet deploying their creativity to a full throttle by choreographing the dance movements to blend well with the music.

 The students chose a variety of themes, some more abstract than others.  University of Pennsylvania chose to present the story of Adam and Eve and their depiction of the various characters using analogies from the Indian legends was curiously interesting. There were some purists in the audience (I am included) who would have loved to see more Abhinaya. The dancers’ traditional costumes drenched the audience in a riot of conspicuous colors and dazzling designs that could have been the handiwork of an intricate Kanchipuram weave. University of Maryland’s Moksha were declared winners while Rutger’s Natya were runners up. University of Pennsylvania received special honorable mention.


BU’s Dheem concluded the program with the Surya Namaskar-salutation to the sun god. The judges for the competition were Mrs. Neha Parikh, an accomplished performer, and teacher of two styles- Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam. Neha lives and teaches in Nashua, NH. Mrs. Bani Ray, an exponent of Odissi. Bani also studied Mohiniattam, Manipuri and other folk dance forms. Bani who is based in New Jersey, currently teaches and performs and is doing in depth research and training on the styles and compositions of Guru Deba Prasad. Mrs.Ranjani Saigal who is a very accomplished performer and teacher of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi and really needs little introduction to the members of the New England Community. “I speak for all the judges here when I say I was truly honored to be part of this program. To see this ancient art form brought to life in such a vibrant manner was really heartening. The technique was magnificent which each choreography was creative and unique”, said Ranjani Saigal. The judges offered tips and valuable advice to the participants.


"We thank you all for your support and hope to make this an annual event “ said Amrita Saigal, one of the co-presidents of MIT Natya. For the young classical dancers in the audience, the event was inspirational. A comment from Bhargavi Gopalan captured the impact beautifully. “ We took our daughters Riya and Risha to this event, and they had a *wonderful* time! It was superbly organized, and the talent was astounding. It provided Riya a window into how dance may enhance her socio-cultural connections, and provided clear aspirational goals” said Gopalan. A wonderful experience overall!

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First Place University of Maryland

Second Place - Rutgers University

Honorable Mention - UPENN

All Teams

BU Dheem

MIT Natya

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