Bollywood comes to Ramapo at festive Holi event

Photo by Erica Meline

South Asia is a wonderous region, from the beautiful sights to the values of its people. The region’s rich and diverse culture makes it home to many traditions, and one of the most famous is Holi.

Ramapo celebrated Holi on Monday by watching a Bollywood dance group perform while eating exotic cuisine at the “Colors of Spring” event. This event was put together by Nursing Advisor professor Asha Menta and SSHS School Professor Shabnam Tobaccowala in accordance with Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

“[Holi] signifies the victory of good over evil, the rise of the spring, end of winter,” said Tobaccowala. “It is also celebrated as a Thanksgiving for a good harvest.”

Also known as the Festival of Colors, Tobaccowala explained that during the festival, people “drench each other with colors” by throwing colored powders and balloons, until eventually everyone is painted in vibrant shades of the rainbow. She also stated that the festival is a time to rekindle relationships and strengthen other ones. According to Tobaccowala, a major part of the celebration is also drinking palm resulting in the people getting “totally drunk” off of it.

The performance at the event featured Surabhi Goyal and her dance group. Goyal explained that dancing had always been a part of her life: she learned Kathak, a classical dance of India, at a young age, and has continued to integrate dancing into her life ever since.

She stated that she is now choreographing for various functions and events. Goyal emphasized that dancing plays a huge role in India and is incredibly important to its people.

“It's the heart of Indian culture,” said Goyal. “Every state has their own dancing style.”

Menta introduced Goyal and her group to the stage, and they opened with a traditional folk dance of Rajasthani. The dancers glided across the stage, swaying and spinning in unison. Their bright garments paired with exquisite jewelry lit up the room, making it truly seem like a festival of colors. Their dancing seemed to mesmerize the audience, as everyone watched attentively as the talented dancers owned the stage.

After they concluded their first song, the rest of the dancers left the stage save for Goyal. She took the microphone, almost out of breath from her high-energy dancing, and explained that she would be demonstrating Bollywood dancing next.

“Bollywood dance is basically flavors of all parts of India,” said Goyal. “Every state, every ethnic style, classical, western, from all parts of the world.”

Goyal proceeded to go back onto the stage, this time not accompanied by anyone else. Her lively dancing, however, was enough to occupy the entire stage. She moved with spirit and a smile, leaving the audience in awe of her skills.

Both the music and dancing were noticeably different than the previous folk dance. The moves had more of a modern flare to them, and the music became more upbeat and dynamic. It was the perfect heterogenous blend of stylings and sounds, and the audience was eager to participate in the experience, which luckily they got to do.

After Goyal finished her dance, she asked for members of the audience to join her in the next songs. Though the offer was tempting, many were initially daunted. Eventually, with probing from Goyal and others, some brave souls joined Goyal on stage.

As the dancing continued, however, more and more people participated in the fun. After a couple songs, the stage, as well as the area in front of the stage, was covered with both students and staff as they danced along to the music.

Some people tried to mimic Goyal’s moves, while others added their own unique movements.

Of course, not all the dancers were as talented as the Goyal or the rest of her group, but everyone seemed to be having too good a time to mind. After every song concluded, there would be members of the audience shouting out, “One more,” and everyone would come back on stage for encore after encore.

Eventually, a group of students overtook the stage to showcase their interesting dancing talents, causing Goyal and her dance group to laugh and clap along.

For a brief moment, it seemed that Friends Hall was transported to South Asia. The celebration was an emergence into a beautiful tradition that all attendees appeared grateful to have participated in. Though nothing can compare to witnessing Holi in its native regions, Ramapo was lucky enough to get a slight taste, sound and sight of the festival.