entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

The Long Awaited Cultural Performance!

With my feet and hands stained red and my eyes rimmed with remnants of eyeliner, I wonder if last night’s performance was merely a dream. After weeks of practice and preparation, the night was over in hours. Despite all of the chaos and stress that led up to the event, it was one of the most magical moments I have taken part in on campus.

The Cultural Performance is put on by the Study in India (SIP) students every semester and has come to be one of the biggest events on campus. Some of the acts are consistent for every show: Kuchipudi, Tabla, Sitar, Bollywood, and Kathak, because they are all classes. But the rest of the show is up to the talent of the students studying in the given semester. We ended up with a pretty great variety of talent including songs (in both Hindi and English), Slam Poetry, Bluegrass tunes, and Poi!

As students we put together the program, worked with faculty to get sound equipment, etc. I assisted Claire in her Stage Manager role and once again was jostled to experience this in India. For example, some administrative person thought it would be a great idea to schedule a conference in the same auditorium before the performance. Therefore, we did not have access to the space until 4pm…with a performance at “6pm.” Fortunatley, we were able to practice our Kuchipudi dance in full hair and costume, but all the other acts only got a few seconds to begin their talent before being cut off.

However, for us Kuchipudi dancers, our preparation began at 1pm. Well, actually, it was 2pm by the time all of our accessories showed up. Our costumes were distributed and luckily, we had a women to help us figure out what piece goes where!



Next came the wigs, yes, wigs. These are long black wigs that are tied on to our heads. Our real hair is braided into the wig hair. Then all the accessories are added. For 5 hours of wearing this headpiece I had the worst headache of my life…but the wig stayed on tight!


I was surprised that these men were our hair and make up artists!

IMG_2595Juice break!

To accentuate our feet and hand gestures our feet and hands were painted red!



Make-up was the last step. Upon seeing all the “community” make up laying out on the table, I closed my eyes and prayed to the Lord that I would not wake up with eye herpies in the morning!


Only a picture can describe the final product:


Do you recognize me? (I’m the one on the left) Haha!



Roomies: Emily and I ūüôā

Finally, after the hustle and bustle, it was showtime!!

The show opened with this Video -produced and filmed by Connor Thompson

The three girls: Anna, Brooke, and Gilly, were the hosts or EmCs for the night. We spent all day Saturday filming! Everything was shot in our hostel so hopefully it will give you a good idea of where I am living!

I think you will understand the video, but the whole premise is that it is suddenly the day of the cultural performance and no one is ready…but All is Well! And then, the performance starts!

Next was our Kuchipudi performance. Before showtime, we were all standing backstage watching the clock slowing tick…6:10…6:17…6:22…We were waiting for Aruna, our dance instructor, but we were not sure why. Finally she comes in bearing all the items for a pooja. This is crazy, I thought, we are going to do a pooja when the show is literally about to start? We all joined hands, closed our eyes, and began reciting our opening prayer. It was an amazing moment. I could hear the opening video begin to play and the people around us begin to rustle, but somehow in that moment of anticipation, there was peace and unification. I found it not only ¬†to be a moment to thank Lord Shiva for our dance, but to thank my God for the gifts he has bestowed upon me and remind myself to use my body to glorify Him!

Aruna smashed a coconut on the floor, poured the juices over our bells, and we attached them to ankles. A big squeeze of confidence from Aruna and we were walking onto stage. I cannot describe how thrilling the experience was! After weeks of intense practicing feet, gestures, and head bobbles, my body was able to move naturally and intuitively. The emotion of dance took over my body and I was in pure bliss…making me realized how much I miss performing! Though it is an 8 minute dance, it seemed like 8 seconds. Check out these amazing photos taken by the University:







Upon finishing the dance, I stripped down and struggled to get my massive wig off before my next act: singing “Ek, Doh, Tin” with Rachel B and Rachel S. We just sang a small portion of this Bollywood song from the 80s with cheesy choreography. Though I totally missed up the timing, we had fun grooving around.

My final act was a duet with my fellow theatre major at Tagore, Sarah.


We had had big plans to do a jazzy Broadway number with amazing choreography…but alas, time and resources got the best of us. Finally we sat down and decided to choose a Disney song that we knew by heart and in which we could use YouTube karaoke. Upon coming across The¬†Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World,” creativity struck! Here are the lyrics we came up with:

Look at this stuff,¬†Isn’t it neat?¬†Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?¬†Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl,¬†The girl who has everything?

Look at this trove,¬†Treasures untold.¬†How many wonders can one country hold?¬†Looking around here you think, sure, she’s got everything.

I’ve got saris and kurtas a-plenty.¬†I’ve got bindis and toe rings galore.¬†You want bangles?¬†I’ve got twenty!

But who cares? No big deal. I want more.

I wanna be where the people are.¬†I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’.¬†Riding around on those – what do you call ’em?¬†Oh – rickshaws!

Eating here we have lots of spice,¬†Chilies, and garlic, and coriander.¬†Eating a bunch of those – what’s are they called again?¬†Samosas!

Here where they walk, here where they run, here where they sweat all day in the sun.¬†Drinking their tea ‚Äď glad I can be,¬†Part of this world.

What would I give if I could live in Hindustani? What would I pay to spend a day warm at Charminar?

At the bazaar money goes far, As long you know how to barter. Homeless doggies, croaking froggies, monkeys galore. 

I‚Äôm ready to know what the Brahmans know.¬†Ask ’em my questions and get some answers.¬†What is a yogi and why do they – what’s that sound? “Om.”

This is my turn!¬†How I love, love to explore this colorful world?¬†Drinking their tea‚ÄĒGlad I could be.¬†Part of this world.¬†

The power of the Disney orchestra paired with the words of the song really hit me in the moment. ¬†It sounds super cheesy, but I felt very emotional afterwords. In that moment I realized that this performance was a culmination of our semester…which is winding down so quickly. Though we poked fun at some of the quirks of India, I will miss every single one of them.


After the show, I was happy to find that the audience loved the parody as well. It was an aspect that bridged the gap between the international and local students. Even our SIP Director, Aparna Madame, whom has never talked to me came up to me to thank me for contributing the song.

As a whole, I think all of us from SIP were very pleased with the event and how it progressed! I wish you all could have been there, but alas, this world is too big. However, there were some folks video recorded the performances! Here is a video for you to watch! I am front and center in the green outfit. (There will be a better quality version coming. I will post them once I have access.) For more pictures of the performance click here. And here is an article posted by the UoH Herald.

Today, I am feeling very nostalgic. It is the pit in your stomach after a performance high. I must admit, I have not felt this way in a long time. At NWU, we get 8 performances of a show before closing so usually I feel ready to end the show and move on to something else. But here, we had one chance. It is a reminder that the preparation and work put into these type of events means so much.

I am so blessed to have danced under the direction of Aruna Bhikshu. She is an amazing women with a love for Kuchipudi that bursts out of here. Yes, she can be strict and harsh. But also became a friend and major support. Aruna was impressed with how well I was able to pick up the moves and make them my own. Already she is talking about trying to continue my training over the internet! While I don’t see that concept panning out very well, I am honored that she is so willing to continue my training in classical dance.


Also, my friend, Ayush was able to attend the performance and even got up on stage! After hearing that he would be in attendance, the EmCs decided to use him for one of their skits in between acts. I was touched that Ayush was so willing to get off work early to attend the performance and meet all of my friends!



So, with the performance behind us, it is time to study! Classes are over but the exams and papers are creeping closer and closer but I will forever hold on to these memories!


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