Annual cultural event offers entertainment, performance opportunities

Sally Cochran, Editor in Chief

On Nov. 3, I attended India Nite, an event hosted by the India Association of Kansas City at Yardley Hall in the Carlson Center at Johnson County Community College.
My best friend, sophomore Menita Vedantam, and I were texting about our history class and life in general. She was talking about the upcoming Indian dance performances that she was dancing in. I had been to one of her performances in the past, so I asked if any were ones that I could go to. As easy as that, I was planning to attend India Night.
Even though she told me that there would be many types of performances and that it would be a longer event, nothing could have truly prepared me for the day ahead.
Over the course of five hours, thirty nine acts performed in front of a large and lively audience.
The day started for me when I climbed into the Vedantam family car, along with her parents and a family friend. We drove crazily to JCCC talking in a mix of English and Telugu — one of the many languages spoken in India — while her mom frantically used a thin string to tie fresh flowers together, making a component of her daughter’s costume.
We arrived at JCCC and then needed to finish preparing Vedantam for her performances backstage.
Her mom lead us to a crowded room backstage full of frantic mothers preparing their children for their performances.
Last minute makeup and jewelry were being thrown on while several little girls crowded around an iPod, singing along to “Safe and Sound,” by Taylor Swift. Performers, ranging in age from tiny children to adults, wore many types of decorated costumes.
As Vedantam and her friends prepared for their dances, the constant jangling from various jewelry and gajjes — anklets covered in bells — filled the crowded room.
Once Vedantam and all of her fellow performers were prepared, we entered the audience.
It was a very unusual setting — the house lights were up, and people were entering and exiting the entire time. Performers sat with friends and family in the audience until their act performed, and sat with the audience again when they had finished. The audience was highly involved through the whole event, whistling, cheering and clapping.
India was truly special to me because of the large variety of performances. The acts were mostly Indian dances performed by people in their teens or younger, including Bharathanatym, Bollywood and Gharba styles of dance. There were the little girls and boys, dancing cutely off-beat with pots and fake swords. There was a mime act, and a rock band with a violin, guitars, keyboard, drums and vocals.
Possibly one of the best “acts” was the two girls in front of me. During the entire second half of the show, they were standing and mimicking whatever the dancers were doing on stage. If onstage the dancers raised their arms in a sweeping motion, so would the two girls. Without running out of energy, they danced and giggled through about two hours of crazy dance moves.
Vedantam said she dances for multiple reasons.
“[I dance] because it’s good exercise, and it’s really fun, and I get to spend time with amazing friends,” she said.
Vedantam said you can get involved in India Nite next year by performing in or attending the event. Sign up online at IAKC.com to perform.