Dancers put new spin on tradition

ASAR’s members display some of the intricate hand movements involved in Bollywood and Indian dancing while performing in their play, Bollywood Romeo, last year in the Yvonne Theater.

By Heather Fiore

Although they exude most of Rider’s enthusiasm and pride, Rider Dance Ensemble (RDE) and the Rider Dance Team are officially not the only dancers on campus anymore.

Tashan, the new and improved Bollywood dancing team on campus, has begun to display its talent across campus. As a part of the relatively new organization, Asian Students at Rider (ASAR), Tashan’s techniques are very different from more traditional forms of dancing.

Tashan was formerly known as Rhythm before the creators decided to change the name to embody the South Asian theme.

Tashan, which means “style” in Hindi, encompasses classic and traditional Indian and Bollywood dances, while also featuring more modern dancing. Although it may not seem like Indian dances could incorporate hip-hop, ASAR members have demonstrated otherwise.

ASAR’s historian, senior Aneesh Cheruthottil, is well-versed on the styles of dancing that the club portrays.

“There’s traditional, classic Indian dancing, which is very intricate and very much with the hand movements and gestures, and there’s also fusion, which is more modern Indian dancing,” Cheruthottil said. “We call it classical. It’s more modern and contemporary, compared to American culture dancing. Then, we also do hip-hop, where we either dance to Indian remix songs or even English songs.”

Seniors Radhika Vasudeva and Dimple Shah, along with junior Aggie Varughese, created ASAR in 2007. Their goal is to promote the Asian culture while also educating students on certain events and aspects of the culture. The club welcomes students of all ethnicities, which is the ultimate aim of this year.

According to sophomore Pooja Mahesh, ASAR’s head of public relations, the club essentially revolves around dancing.

“We want to teach them and want them to learn our culture,” Mahesh said. “We want them to understand the overall concept.”

Every year, ASAR holds an event called Asha. Cheruthottil explained that Asha is a talent show, during which people from all different cultures come in and perform; it’s not strictly Indian and Bollywood dances.

Other dance teams have also helped ASAR’s performances in the past. Last year, RDE and The College of New Jersey boys’ dance team, Saathiya, performed in this event.

Since Tashan embodies the Asian culture, its members dress in the traditional clothing to complete the look. ASAR members make their own costumes depending on what the performance requires.

“We wear traditional Indian clothes for the Bollywood dances so you get the feel of the culture,” Mahesh said. “Also, it’s so everybody feels that we are different and you understand the culture.”

Last year, ASAR also held a musical in the Yvonne Theater, Bollywood Romeo, which was written by Cheruthottil. The play included 12 different songs that told the story of a man who was trying to find love in India as he met a series of girls.

This year, ASAR is looking forward to showcasing Tashan as an official, developed group of dancers. Last year, the group only consisted of seven members, but membership has expanded significantly. This year between 15 and 20 dancers will be performing at each event.

“We are working hard on getting Tashan’s name out to the Rider community and hopefully we can start to visit and perform at other schools within the next couple of years,” Mahesh said.

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