On March 29, Davis’ classical Indian dance group, Sunatya, will host their showcase titled Davis Dheem Tana 2014 alongside teams from universities around the country, including UCLA, USC, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, University of Washington, Penn State, Tufts and Stanford.
Davis Dheem Tana 2014 is made possible by a partnership with the Davis branch of Visions Global Empowerment. Since its inception in 2003, this nonprofit organization has conducted over 28 life skills training programs at universities and schools in South Asia. All proceeds from this event will be donated to youth affected by poverty and conflict.
The 11 dancers in Davis’ all-female group Sunatya are trained in Bharatanatyam, which is a dance form originating in India. Originally performed by temple dancers in ancient times, Bharatanatyam is now widely performed around the world. The team prides itself in combining the classical form of Bharatanatyam with modern influences for a contemporary audience.
“It’s a very ancient dance form and it was revived relatively recently in the 20th century,” said Neha Palacherla, a fourth-year English major who has been dancing since she was five. “It has become very popular here in the States and all over the world, even outside of India. There are a lot of classically trained dancers.”
Bharatanatyam involves a lot of skill and endless practice. Many group members have been dancing since they were children and each brings a slightly different style to the team.
“The thing with the dance form that we do is that it requires a certain amount of training beforehand. All the girls on the team have been trained for a couple of years. Most of them have at least 10 years’ experience,” Palacherla said.
The group name “Sunatya” means “graceful dance.” The team have been promoting the showcase through their Facebook page, website and also in the community. They will be tabling on the Quad this week.
“There are a lot of Indian community organizations so we’ll be reaching out to them. We’re all from different dance schools so we’ve been asking our teachers to tell their students to come [to the show],” Palacherla said.
Anisha Rajavel, a third-year biochemistry major, captains Sunatya with fellow UC Davis student Ahalya Prakash. Rajavel has been dancing for 13 years.
“[The captains] are in charge of choreographing all the dance moves. Our modern influence is primarily the music. We generally keep the choreography traditional,” Rajavel said.
Classical Indian dancing is already popular on the East Coast, and there are several large competitions such as Laasya. Rajavel and Prakash first decided to put on the show last Spring Quarter. Davis Dheem Tana 2014 is the first showcase to be held on the West Coast and will see several competitive college dance teams come together to raise cultural awareness in the Davis community.
“Two of the teams that are coming [to dance in the show] placed second and third at one of the biggest competitions on the East Coast. I’m really excited to dance at the same show as them,” Rajavel said.
Ritika Johal, a fourth-year neurobiology major, has been a part of the Davis branch of Visions Global Empowerment since 2011.
“My role as president basically includes coming up with new fundraising ideas. We have a Visions member, Ahalya [on the dance team]. She has been with us for two years, so we thought it would be perfect to partner up,” Johal said in a phone interview.
The partnership with the Davis branch of Visions Global Empowerment has worked well.
“We are completely non-profit and we want to do our part for the community. Visions tends to [help people in] the place where Bharatanatyam comes from. [Visions] also have lots of events experience,” Rajavel said.
The dancers wear traditional costumes which are adjusted to make them easier to dance in. Each team will have eight minutes to perform, and each dance follows a storyline. The showcase will appeal to all audiences and no previous knowledge of Bharatanatyam is necessary.
“You don’t have to be Indian [to watch the show]. Each team has a video to introduce their stories so you don’t have to know anything about the dance before coming,” Rajavel said.
Davis Dheem Tana 2014 will begin at 5 p.m. at the Richard Brunelle Performance Hall on March 29. Tickets bought in advance are $10 for students and $15 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased online at davisdheemtana2014.wix.com/dheemtana.