The Daily Gamecock

Aag Ki Raat dance competition shakes Koger Center with Bollywood-fusion performances

<p>Carolina Natyam is a Bharathanatyam classical dance team at the University of South Carolina. Natyam was featured at a Bollywood-fusion dance competition at the Koger Center of the Arts on Jan. 27, 2024.</p>
Carolina Natyam is a Bharathanatyam classical dance team at the University of South Carolina. Natyam was featured at a Bollywood-fusion dance competition at the Koger Center of the Arts on Jan. 27, 2024.

More than 300 students and faculty gathered at the Koger Center for the Arts on Saturday to observe annual stylistic performances from Bollywood-fusion dance teams. 

The Indian Cultural Organization held its annual Bollywood-fusion dance competition, Aag Ki Raat: Night of Fire, which featured eight dance teams from across the country. The competition is a chance for universities to showcase their talents in multiple different dance styles. 

USC is not the only college to host this kind of event. The University of Georgia, University of Minnesota and Northwestern are among those who have held similar competitions.

Each organization is a part of a circuit called Desi Dance Network, which helps organize the event. But USC's competition is mainly facilitated by the Indian Cultural Organization, a student organization that teaches its members about South Asian customs and traditions while spreading Indian culture throughout the USC community.

Since USC was the host for Aag Ki Raat, the group couldn't participate. 

Proceeds from the competition go to the Carolina Survivor Clinic, which provides numerous services for refugees in the South Carolina area, such as delivering medical care, legal assistance, social services and mental health services. The organization has been donating to the clinic for the past six years. Aag Ki Raat raises the most money for the clinic.

The dancers combine several different Western and Indian dance forms, including Bhangra, Bollywood, Tollywood, hip-hop and Bharatanatyam.

Each team chooses a theme and tells a story through their performance. The lighting, choreography, background set-up, costumes and props help to communicate to the audience about the various scenes taking place throughout the performance. 

Pitt Mastana from the University of Pittsburgh won the 2024 competition, with its performance based on the Ghostbusters movie.

In the dance, the two main characters have to defeat a shadow reaper. Their performance takes the audience through how to characters save the city, ending with them defeating the reaper.

"They expresses pride, joy and empowerment in their backgrounds by practicing numerous styles, from hip-hop to Bhangra to Bollywood, and various classical art forms," said Vidhi Patel, co-director of the Indian Cultural Organization and fourth-year biology and psychology student. "The teams members are brought together by one common goal — their passion for dance." 

Texas Mohini from UT Austin got second place and UCB Azaad from UC Berkeley got third. Tamu Akh Mastani from Texas A&M, Steel City Shershaah from Carnegie Mellon University, Virginia Ke Aashiq from the University of Virginia, NU Rangila from Northeastern and UC Dhadak from the University of Cincinnati also participated in the event.

Texas Mohini based its performance on the Tomb Raider movie. The team blended more than eight styles of dance, from classical to hip-hop. The performance highlighted key moments in the movie, which ends with the main villain in the movie, Natla, being defeated and the main character, Lara Croft, evading a exploding volcano.

UCB Azaad based its performance on The 5th Wave movie. These performers incorporated styles of Kuchipudi, Bollywood, hip-hop, Kuthu and Bhangra. The performers used different color schemes to emphasize each wave of the Alien invasion that occurs in the movie.

There was a lot of effort that was put into the performances and the set up of the event, Vidhi Patel said. There were multiple people involved from the Indian Cultural Organization that helped planned this annual event. 

“My favorite part of the event is just seeing all of our executive board, our liaisons, who are basically working one-on-one with the teams, and then our volunteers, just so happy on show day,” Vidhi Patel said. “Seeing all the different pieces and parts fit together, and it's like everybody’s hard work really paid off.” 


Khushi Patel, the other co-director of the organization, said everybody has something they can appreciate from this event and that anybody can have fun at this event.  

“If you've never been to a Bollywood-fusion dance competition before, it's really just such a unique space and such a unique pattern of performance that you really don't understand what it is until you see the first performance,” Khushi Patel said.

Audience members at this year's event cheered and met each performance with enthusiasm.

“I have been to everything at USC — ballet, contemporary," epidemiology Ph.D. student Sherry Price said. "This is absolutely my favorite out of everything I've been to." 

All of the performances from Aag Ki Raat can be streamed on Youtube