REVIEW: Holi Festival

Today, colorful puffs of clouds arose over Palmer Field.

Hosted by the Student life Multi-ethnic student affairs at the University of Michigan, students celebrated the annual Holi Festival on the afternoon of March 20th. The event went like this: first, students were checked in and were given color powders in Zipper bags. There were orange, yellow, lavender, blue, red, green-all very vibrant colors. The powder was very soft to the touch and felt good-safe to throw at people without worrying that they will get hurt. People were standing as a big group and jumping and singing along to the music. In this big jumble of people, friends courageously showered each other with colored powders while the more polite people would say, “May I?”, wait for the nod or laugh of approval, and gently rub colored powder as they say, “Happy Holi!”. Everyone’s face, hair, clothes, shoes, all parts of their body was covered with the vibrant colors of powders. I was surprised to see that lots of people were actually wearing white, not the most popular color choice when it comes to going to a place you know that your clothes will be stained, but the shirts did look amazing with paints on them. It was a really pretty color combination, fit for the event’s meaning – a celebration of spring: the season of joy and hope. The energy of youth was blazing as people jumped up and down to music, fit for the name of the festival. Click here for more information about the festival

The weather was nice and the puff of colors was pretty, but that was not the only thing that made the scene welcoming and memorable. Everyone was making sure that the other person was not being hurt by their touch and throw of powder, and this could be sensed so easily. It was a colorful, vibrant, and fun event-even shampooing three times afterward until the foam was not green anymore was good fun!

Lastly, some tips for future participants in Holi Festival:

  1. Make sure that you are wearing the clothes can be ruined – if you don’t want more colors on the clothes you are wearing, heavy cycle + warm water combination did the trick for me.
  2. Go empty-handed – I left my bag and jacket about 30 feet away from the festival field but still got some powder on it. I think it might be from the wind or people picking up their things afterward. If you want to make sure that your belongings stay color-free, it’s best not to bring them.
  3. Glass wearers – consider wearing contacts for the event. I did not know this and went with glasses, and people had a bit of difficulty rubbing colored powder on my face. I thus tucked away my glasses in my pocket, which mysteriously vanished by the time that the event was ended. Oh well, it was fun so it’s all good, but it doesn’t that you will also need to offer a glass for the colorful celebration!
  4. Don’t be shy to throw colors at strangers! They will often very likely smile and exclaim ‘happy Holi!’ and shower you with color powders!







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.