Before the colorful lights illuminated the stage, cheers could be heard from the seats in the back of the auditorium, as friends passionately yell the names of performers. When the red curtain was pulled back, the performers were in their starting positions with their brightly colored costumes reflecting the spotlight. The reverberating music filled the auditorium with Indian classical music and Bollywood hits, and the first act of Spotlite on India 2018 started.
Spotlite on India is an annual show put on by MV Indo-American Student Association (IASA), and it aims to showcase numerous styles of Indian dance, as well as aspects of Indian culture such as music and fashion. The show was held on April 6 and 7, and Spotlite is donating all ticket proceeds to Ekal Vidyalaya, a charity that helps build schools and promote literacy throughout rural India.
While it may be math teacher Sushma Bana’s 12th year as an IASA adviser, it is still enjoyable for her to watch the show come together every time. She considers herself as more of a facilitator to ensure everything goes smoothly.
“Being part of that makes me very proud of them as a teacher also because I teach many of these kids,” Bana said. “As an Indian, a part of me also feels...I’m sort of, paying my debt to my motherland.”
Bana notes that the shows each year have slight differences, but overall they carry the same significance. She feels especially proud knowing that the kids are taking the best of both cultures. They may be born here, but their family’s roots are elsewhere. Each performance is united by the goal of cherishing their culture, even as some years have many trained dancers, while others have more newcomers that are still learning the steps.
For MV Raas, while most members already have previous dance experience, not all were trained in folk dancing, which is MV Raas’ specialty. Senior Aparna Manoj has performed as part of MV Raas, a team she has been a part of since sophomore year. Leading up to the performance, they’ve had three to four two-hour long practices per week, along with four back-to-back rehearsals to prepare for the big show.
“Most people are either trained in Bollywood or trained classically, but people don’t really go out and do folk dances,” Manoj said. “So they join the team and get the hang of it.”
Before the performance itself, the team members spent around an hour pinning the costumes and putting on makeup, and put on jewelry — a finishing touch — during intermission. After all the preparations, it’s finally time to perform.
“As it gets closer to the end of senior year, you realize that you really become a family because you’re with the same 12 people,” Manoj said. “You have the same faces every single show, and you know everybody, so everyone is cheering each other on side stage.”
Though she was in a different dance group than Manoj, senior Eesha Gholap felt the same sense of community when dancing in one of the three senior acts titled Inga Parungo Pa. The co-ed group was unique because the dance involved switching between the guy and girl dances and finally coming together as a group.
This was Gholap’s first time performing in Spotlite, and she especially enjoyed the time spent practicing before the final performance.
“I thought I would be kind of nervous, but when you’re on the stage you can’t really see anything, it’s just all dark,” Gholap said. “But when you hear people cheering for you and you see your friends are there for you...it’s really sweet.”
Gholap added that she enjoys feeling a sense of community with her fellow performers.
“It’s great when everyone just comes together for one performance that has everything from one culture,” Gholap said. “It’s nice to just see… people still attached to their culture in some way.”
For junior Ashika Jaiswal, who performed with MV Andaaz, preparations can start as early as the beginning of the school year. The team held many practices throughout the weeks and added more songs to their routine for Spotlite. Even so, Jaiswal feels there was still some nervousness that came with the first performance. After that, the second day became more routine, and the nerves from the first day fade away.
“As soon as the music turn[s] on and you hit the first step, it’s just natural from that point onwards,” Jaiswal said.
The team faced some injuries during the show — halfway through Andaaz’s performance on Saturday, captain and senior Dhruv Parikh dislocated his shoulder and had to rush offstage. Members went to the emergency room afterwards to make sure everything was fine.
“Overall, despite some injuries, I think we did pretty well,” Jaiswal said. “There’s always stuff to improve but I think we did pretty well [in terms of] overall energy and sync.”
For next year’s Spotlite, Jaiswal hopes to incorporate more upbeat, “hype” songs, work on facial expressions and execute cleaner routines. To Jaiswal, what makes Spotlite so special is being able to see all the elements of the show, from the preparation to the fun senior dances, come together.
Click through the timeline below to look at the different performances that were showcased throughout the night.
The preparation for Spotlite was both time-consuming and painstaking, as officers began to brainstorm ideas as early as June 2017. Rather than prepping for the actual performance itself, the club completed the preliminary duties: delegating their new officer team, meeting up with assistant principal Mike White and booking the auditorium for next year.
Things simmered down for the summer, only to come back full force the start of school year.
Spotlite is essentially the union of several independent performances by clubs such as MV Bhangra, MV Andaaz and MV Raas. Secretary and junior Samheeta Mistry considers them to be separate entities that need no outside help, but for the larger acts — senior or individual solo acts — IASA signs them up according to an audition basis. Typically, around 16 to 20 acts sign up and 15 to 17 try out.
“When we decided our performers, we really look at how our audience
will enjoy it,” Mistry said. “Because in the end, we do put on the show to make sure our audiences enjoy it. And that’s like [one of] the first things we always think of.”
Regardless if it’s deciding emcees, acts or the ending performers that will round off the entire show, the audience is consistently kept in mind. This year, the officers concentrated on having variety
in their acts: instead of solely dancing, they decided to add vocal and instrumental elements. However, the selection of acts isn’t the biggest hurdle — it’s deciding the order of them that truly takes time.
“We really have to take in consideration who is in each act and how hard or easy it is for them to go on,” Mistry said. “It’s honestly a really complicated process, [as] this show [has] a lot of seniors taking part in it, because it’s their last and something they’ve always wanted to be part of.”
In fact, the greater number of seniors the more challenging it is for the club to avoid senior acts going one after another. However, Mistry believes this year’s show was much smoother in comparison to last year’s. Every time someone complimented Mistry on the performance, she felt a sense of happiness.
“It just really made my day when I heard that people were upfront coming and telling me they enjoyed the show, because we all worked so hard on it,” Mistry said. “It wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just the officers either. It was all of the officers, all of the committee heads, all the performers. Everyone was so involved and I think it wouldn’t have been possible if everyone wasn’t involved.”