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Awaaz focuses on bridging divisions

Themed "All Together Now" to urge peace on the South Asian subcontinent, the annual cultural show Awaaz will kick off tonight with a variety of dance styles and a strong political message.

The performance, presented by the South Asian-American students association, Diya, will be held at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights at Page Auditorium, preceded by a dinner at 5 p.m. in The Great Hall. Tickets are required to attend, but University students and faculty may obtain them free of charge.

Senior Jainey Bavishi, Awaaz 2002 chair, said this year's theme is timely and appropriate.

"We were thinking about political tensions in [South Asia]," she said. "We hope that through Awaaz, our community can put [the tensions] aside and celebrate our shared culture."

The new theme also reflects some of the artistic goals of the performance, she said.

"The show is really reflective of both Eastern and Western dance styles," Bavishi said. In addition to traditional dances, and some dances in the more modern "Bollywood" style, Awaaz will showcase a number of fusion performances. Some of these will include a techno dance featuring Indian rhythms, a dance fusing two Indian classical styles with a tap routine, and a performance mixing elements of Brazilian samba, West African dance, and the Garba dance from Gujarat.

Sophomore Niraj Agarwalla, co-vice chair of Awaaz 2002, said he is excited about the artistic aspects of the performance. He will be performing in Bhangra Beatz--a fusion of a Punjabi folk dance called Bhangra and a more urban hip-hop style--that he and choreographer Jacques Colon created.

"I'm looking forward to the artistic diversity in the show," Agarwalla said. "In the past, I think it was predominantly South Asian, and now there is a lot more non-South Asian interest."

Bavishi agreed. "This year's show emphasizes the experience of second-generation South Asian Americans and shows the influence of other parts of the world in the South Asian diaspora."

Many participants said the new theme of bridging differences, while still appreciating cultural diversity, was important to them.

"With such a large audience, Awaaz has the potential to be powerful as a celebration, but only in the context of recognizing the political realities in South Asia," said senior Pavithra Vasudevan , a four-time participant in the festival. "Awaaz can fulfill its potential by acknowledging the massive divisions in the South Asian community, rather than just homogenizing all of them."

Awaaz is sponsored by Diya, which means "light" in Hindi. This is the cultural show's 18th year on campus, and its second year under the name "Awaaz."

"It started out in the Giles common room as an attempt to expose the campus to Indian culture," Bavishi said. After relocating several times to accommodate increasing crowds, the performance now takes place in Page Auditorium, where it usually draws almost 1,000 attendees.


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