A Midsummer Night’s Maya

For weeks now, rich plum purple posters have stood out among the jumble of fliers adorning bulletin boards, stairwells, and bathroom walls alike on the UofC Campus. The poster’s come-hither tagline, “… be enchanted” held an intriguing promise; something more than the usual five-dollar offering for completing a study. Hinting at a glimpse into an exotic far-off land, it peddled the opportunity to be transported away into another time; of being thrown into the gold trimmed splendor of the Indian sub-continent.

It was with great expectation that students queued in a long snaking line outside of Bartlett Dining Hall on Saturday night waiting for dinner before “Maya”, the South Asian Students Association’s annual culture show. Once inside Bartlett, the spread of delicious samosas, naan bread, tandoori chicken and various curries suggested that this evening was not going to be any normal Saturday night at the UofC. First of all, “delicious” and “Bartlett” are not usually uttered in the same breath. Secondly, if the savory blend of tumeric, cumin and cayenne floating through the air was any kind of indicator of the show to come, it was bound to be hypnotic.

Inside Mandel Hall, a hush rippled through the crowd as the curtain opened to a dance called the Natya Swara. The delicate beauty of serpentine arm gestures, the jingle of ankle bracelets, and the rhythmic slap of bare feet on the wooden floor, sent out a lively vibe and almost primal beat that rarely faltered throughout the entire two-and-a-half hour show. The sparkle of gold and silver and the brilliantly luminous colors of the intricately embroidered salwar-kameezes, saris, and kurtas were in themselves enough to whisk the audience away into the mystical forest of sprightly Pintoo, home to the intertwining love stories of Lalit, Hema, Dev, and Hasina. The mesmerizing journey had all the melodrama of a good Bollywood flick and all the energy of a Bhangra beat as the audience was taken “through baghs, through bahaars, through brake, through brier” with no less than eleven different dances, an a capella performance, and a poetry reading. But the audience was not just thrown into your traditional dreamlike South Asian realm. The residents of Pintoo’s forest, besides performing spellbinding time-honored dances, could also C-walk to Bubba Sparxx. In a West Side Storyesque confrontation between whiteshirts and blackshirts, Bollywood met “You Got Served” as the two sides battled it out on the dance floor.

In Mandel Hall just one year ago, Jeff Tweedy wryly remarked that his “wild” audience must have been composed of comparative religion students, a crazy bunch. Mr. Tweedy would eat his words if he had seen the fever pitch fervor of the SASA show’s audience who hooted rowdily at the incredible dancing.