Back to Diwali: 30-year anniversary brings energy to WU community

Lydia McKelvie | Staff Writer

Diwali, presented by Ashoka, celebrated its 30th anniversary this weekend with dancing, theatrics and music. This year’s performance marks decades of bringing a spectacle of sound, color and, most importantly, light to the Edison Theatre. Diwali at Washington University commemorates the South Asian holiday of the same name, a festival of lights and celebration of good over evil. As such, the performance began with the traditional Diya lighting and the repetition of “Welcome to Diwali” in different languages. This opening ceremony set the mood in a beautiful and contemplative way.

The skit, directed and performed by Wash. U. students, revolved around a student named Mukesh who struggles to manage his grades and parental expectations while trying to figure out what he wants in life and attempting to return a fugitive time traveler back to his time. It was quite funny, with many excellent Wash. U.-specific jokes and excellent characters. The character of “Chancellor Martini” as well as the WUPD officer and EST duo were particularly fun. While the skit ran a little long, and some scenes seemed to meander and could have used a bit more editing, the performance had a wonderful energy that I really enjoyed watching. It also covered heavy topics effectively and had a great message that made the resolution well worth the wait.

Morad Suliman | Student Life

Students perform the Garba dance in “Back to Diwali,” Ashoka’s 30th Diwali show. The show featured modern and traditional dances, a skit and an a cappella performance.

The dance segment of the performance was kicked off by the Classical team, who brought some serious girl power. Their dance told the story of Lord Hanuman, one of the supreme gods of Hinduism. The narrative was beautifully woven through the choreography and wonderful lyricism and expressions of the dancers. I also enjoyed the movement and color of the costumes.

Diwali also included a delightful fashion show, showcasing various beautiful South Asian clothes. The emcees had an infectious energy that made the show enjoyable to watch and left the audience wanting more, and the models clearly had a lot of fun dancing to their runway music and showing off some lovely pieces!

Group dances are also a Wash. U. Diwali tradition, including a freshman and senior class dance. This year, each dance team also performed old choreography as a touching tribute to the 30-year history of Diwali performances at Wash. U.

The next dance put on was Garba, performed by the all-girls team, the “Garbanzos.” I loved their blend of recognizable Bollywood tunes and high energy beats like Beyonce’s “Formation.”

Besides being a celebration of fun and culture, Diwali is also a philanthropic performance. This year Diwali supported the Kashmir Relief Fund through Helping Hand USA. The philanthropic presentation was an incredibly moving combination of documentary style videos, live music and emotional dance performances.

Dancing and a skit weren’t all that Diwali had to offer. Sur Taal Laya, Wash. U.’s Bollywood fusion a cappella group, also gave a fun performance, with impressive and original arrangements. I really loved the solos in this performance and the variety it brought to the show.

When it came to energy levels, Raas seemed to steal the show. Their adorable midwestern theme, heightened by cute props and color coordinated outfits, added to the fun. However, when I thought the energy couldn’t be raised anymore, Bhangra delivered a spectacularly energetic performance complete with rainbow outfits!

Morad Suliman | Student Life

Students perform the energetic Raas dance in Ashoka’s 30th Diwali show. Diwali is a festival of lights that is celebrated by many South Asian cultures.

Chaahat finished off the night, and as always had an interesting and narratively driven theme. This year’s routine was based on a “Black Mirror” episode, retold through a combination of video, dance and costume changes. I was especially impressed by the quick changes and incredible mixing of music and media. The narrative was strong throughout, and I loved the charming romantic ending.

Diwali always brings a special blend of tradition and modernity through the incredible performances and showcases. This year really highlighted the immense talent to be found in the Wash. U. student body while celebrating different, vibrant South Asian cultural communities found at Wash. U. in a variety of ways.

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