Last year, students in the South Asian Society received an alarming message. The stage at Gaston Hall, the location where, for the past 19 years, they organized Rangila — a South Asian dance show — was structurally unsound. Contractors found that a group of more than 45 people on the stage could cause it to collapse. Rangila usually features around 500 student performers.
The 20th annual Rangila dance last November took place on one night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which fits an audience of 2,300.
This Friday and Saturday, the dancers will return for two nights to a newly renovated Gaston Hall stage to packed crowds of around 800 audience members. For many, the 21st Rangila, now sold out, represents a return home.
“We’re coming home — that’s what it is for us,” SAS Treasurer Bhavya Jha (SFS ’17) said. “As a board, as choreographers and as dancers who have experienced Gaston, I feel like this is our stomping grounds, and these are our two nights to own it.”
Many of the dancers, particularly those who are seniors, are looking forward to this Gaston performance as a conclusion to their Rangila experiences. Rushika Athia (COL ’16) shares this common sentiment of feeling at home.
“A lot of people spoke about being able to dance on Gaston and having that smaller feel,” Athia said. “It’s completely packed, and there are so many people who come that are Hoyas because it’s easier to get to. There is such a feeling you get when you’re in Gaston. I definitely think it makes for a more memorable and richer experience.”
SAS President Aakash Bhatia (MSB ’16) said returning to Gaston has liberated the choreographers and their visions for the show.
“In terms of actual setup, we have a lot more freedom to do what we want to do,” Bhatia said. “At the Kennedy Center, naturally since it’s an outside venue, we had certain restrictions on the stage with regards to lighting and props. At Gaston of course — being right on campus — we have a lot more flexibility, which makes incorporating the theme easier since we don’t have limits on what types of props we can use.”
For Rangila 2015, the board decided on a game show theme with the tag line, “Are You Game?” The two masters of ceremony, Riya Modi (COL ’16) and Chandini Jha (COL ’16), plan to incorporate this into their comedic skits interspersed throughout the night (full disclosure: Chandini Jha is the community member of The Hoya’s board of directors). According to Bhavya Jha, the theme has played a central role in increasing excitement surrounding the show.
“‘Are You Game?’ has played out well in our marketing,” Jha said. “Are the dancers game? Is the audience game? Are you ready for this? This is it.”
Rangila is also a charity showcase, with the $20 ticket prices going toward the Pritam Spiritual Foundation, a non-profit in Kashmir, India, that provides medical attention to people injured by land mines. Bhatia hopes to further advertise this important aspect of the event that is too often overlooked.
“The proceeds of our show are donated to the Pritam Spiritual Foundation, which is a Kashmir-based organization,” Bhatia said . “It helps the victims of the India-Pakistan conflict, especially those who have lost limbs to landmines, and provides them with health care. The organization has been doing great work so that is something we are going to emphasize during the show itself.”
Bhavya Jha is similarly passionate about promoting the board’s devotion to Prtiam Spiritual Foundation.
“At the end of the day, we forget that it’s a charity show,” she said. “We make it all about the dance, but that dancing is going towards a bigger cause. I have to make sure that money is spent in a very conscientious and intentional way so that our end goal of supporting the charity can come to fruition.”
Jha said that overall, Rangila proudly shines a spotlight on the artistic traditions of southern Asia and also engages the campus in a larger celebration of culture.
“You’re missing out if you don’t come,” Jha said. “Not only are you supporting a charity, you are supporting this community and what a certain group of students brings to it in terms of dance, culture and comedy. Everyone is going to be there, so be there or be square because you’ll probably be alone on your Friday or Saturday if you’re not in Gaston.”
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