The 18th annual “Ghungroo” was a riot of color, sound, and motion. The Harvard South Asian Association’s three-hour cultural celebration, which ran this past weekend, featured traditional and nontraditional South Asian dance, music, and poetry interspersed with skits poking fun at about both South Asian and non-South-Asian culture.
The show began on a mellow note. Female performers in brightly colored traditional garb kept the rhythm with bells wrapped around their ankles while performing a classical dance. It was followed by one of three traditional poems, read in an Indian language and translated into English for the audience. The poem “This Monsoon Descends” investigated the co-existence of love and pain in the world.
The pace soon picked up in an energetic Tamil dance in which dancers in bright orange dress with white washcloths reenacted a village scene about a shut-off water supply.
The enthusiasm and energy of pieces like the Tamil dance characterized the show. This enthusiasm was most visible in the impressive and hugely enjoyable all-senior self-commemorative dance which led into intermission, a fast-paced medley of Bollywood-style songs danced with infectious energy by over 80 members of the senior class.
The musical elements of the show were equally fun-loving and energetic. During a Pakistani rock song near the end of the show, dancers crossed the stage behind a light curtain in the back as the instrumentalists traded off short solos and the crowd clapped along.
In another fun musical act, the Qawwali, two groups of singers—one male, one female—egged each other on as they debated the nature of love, accompanied by traditional Indian instruments.
The show was also punctuated by a number of short sketches about South Asian stereotypes, including a protracted bit about stereotypically protective Indian parents and their kids. In a particularly memorable and amusing monologue, Shankar Ramaswamy ’11 adopted a stereotypical Indian accent only to defend it by impersonating varying American accents and impugning the audience for laughing at him. When we laugh at him, Shankar says, he laughs back.
In another skit, two of the many non-South-Asian performers discussed the glamorous, festive image of India. Stepping off the plane in India, the two predict lots of colorful dresses, vibrant music, and energetic and suggestive dancers gesturing to each other from occasionally gender-segregated groups. Instead, they find a beggar.
Typical of the show’s comedic flair, the beggar that the two encounter turns out to be a dancer on a Bollywood film set, confirming the two’s belief that in India, as in “Ghungroo,” there is no poverty at all. The skit segues, after a characteristically amusing and cheesy rhyming introduction over the speakers, into a colorful and energetic Bollywood dance routine.
The final dance, “Raas,” exemplified some of the best of what “Ghungroo” offers. The lively dancers, dressed in rich and intricate traditional garb and armed with short percussive sticks, danced to the back of the stage, where they beat their sticks together as the rest of the performers came on stage to bow.
“Ghungroo” was a joyous celebration of South Asian tradition and culture,