Even though the audience was 8,431 miles away from India, the IASA show transported each and every audience member to the land and culture most of the 4000 audience members and 300 performers also call home. One could feel the nostalgia amongst some audience members as they heard songs from their childhood and the immense fascination amongst the others who are experiencing this culture for the first time. I was excited to experience the journey with 240 dancers as they portray 10 different dimensions of life and tell the story of 1 human journey that unites us all.

The show had 10 dances choreographed by student members of the IASA. The show started with the National Anthems of both, the US (performed by the amazing Dicks and Janes Acapella Group) and India, which was a very soulful, classical rendition that had the audience sing along and pay tribute to the culture we were celebrating.

The show was one of the most high energy performances I have witnessed at the University of Michigan. The show began with the theme of Village, which highlighted the camaraderie and close-knit bonds in Indian villages and communities. The selection of songs were the most popular Bollywood songs from 2013-2015 and there was not a single dancer on stage who didn’t have a million-watt smile on their face or energy that could bring a dead man back to life! The graceful Apsaras came up next, with a fusion of graceful Indian classical. It was absolutely thrilling to watch the ladies dance but were even more surprised with Liam Wiesenberger, who was absolutely perfect with the technique of Bharatnatyam. The costumes were absolutely perfect and reflective of the spirit of India – the bright colors, ghagras, modern styles and traditional accessories like ghungroos lit Hill Auditorium brighter than the lights could.

The evening was dedicated to a cause – the IASA supports the Nisvartha Foundation in India, which provides mentoring and an access to higher education to students who do not have the financial means to access specialized education and training. As we learned through the show, social welfare is one of the organization’s five pillars.

As the evening went on with enthralling dances, there were a few other performers who came to support the show. One of them was Jai Matt, a performer from Philadelphia who mashes up popular songs with Indian tunes. The audience had mixed reactions (and a lot of us felt uncomfortable) due to his slightly absurd style of serenading a volunteer on stage in the style of Enrique. We felt like there was a little too much of unwanted affection towards the girl who he performed his song to. It was also pretty strange for all of us to see a singer interject, and not really sing to his own backing tracks played by a DJ! We wished his performance wouldn’t have had these elements as most of us saw talent that was channeled in not the best way. Nonetheless, it was an entertaining part of the evening (not for all the right reasons!)

Furthermore, the other performances of Desire, Filmi, Bollywood/Fusion, Evolution, All Male (Badmash) and Bhangra pushed the energy of the show even higher. Evolution’s performance was the one that showed our journey through college as it started when we got our acceptance letters from the University of Michigan, and continued through finding love, orientation, frat parties, ladies’ nights, recruiting, being employed and graduating. It made a lot of the seniors nostalgic and excited the freshmen for the years and experiences waiting for us. The whistles, hoots, screams and cheers all indicated the audience’s appreciation for each of the 300 dancers who were all in the spotlight.

At the end of it, I started regretting not being part of IASA as the performers shared a special bond and the opportunity to dance one of my favorite styles. When I got back home, I couldn’t resist the urge to play all my favorite Bollywood songs and dance to them! Azaya truly unified the student, faculty and support community of the University of Michigan – and made us smell the soil of our homeland, feel the colors and festivity in our pulse and indeed believe that unity is what makes us such a vibrant community.