WURaas Dance Team Now Ranked 13th in the Nation

| Junior Scene Editor

Washington University’s Raas dance team placed 2nd and 3rd in their earlier competitions this semester and now are ranked 13th in the entire country (Zoe Oppenheimer | Student Life).

For the first time in over ten years of competition, the Washington University Raas dance team brought home numerous trophies from bid competitions in the collegiate competitive circuit. Their success in these competitions moved them up to be ranked thirteenth in the country –– three spots away from an opportunity to compete at Raas All-Stars, the annual Raas-Garba collegiate national championship in Chicago.

After attending four competitions throughout January and February, the team of 16 dancers won second place at Sanedo on Jan. 21st and third place at Gateway to Raas on Feb. 25.

The team began to prepare for competition in September and recrrecruited nine additional members. With just seven returning members, the team was largely composed of new dancers who would have to be trained and taught choreography.

“It was stressful at first for both me and Isa, my co-captain, because we wanted to make sure that we were able to teach all of our new members the necessary skills to be able to perform for both Diwali and for competition later in the spring,” co-captain and senior Rohan Ravirala said. “The week we came back we practiced 12 to 14 hours.”

All teams in the bid competition would produce a seven-to-eight-minute choreography routine, as well as design set pieces to go along with their theme. This year, the team performed an Alice-in-Wonderland themed set.

“When you dance, the reason you have a theme is to have a story. Your background is related to your theme. Your costumes are related to your theme. Your props are related to your theme,” D’Ottone said.

WURass came away victorious, earning second place at Sanedo in UC San Diego the third week of January.  The podium finish was the team’s first at a bid competition in five years.

“I heard them call third place, and I was sad because it felt like our only shot. It looked a little hopeless. Then we heard them call second. I saw everyone just sort of jumping up and down, and they called WashU Raas. I couldn’t believe what was happening,” first year Faizan Noorani said.

In contrast to traditional Dandiya Raas, which has a lot of smooth flowy motions, the competitive Raas Garba dance style requires a lot of intensity and explosiveness.

“It’s very, very high energy and intense if you can imagine a [High-Intensity-Interval Training] workout, but for like seven minutes straight, instead of being smaller intervals.”  junior Ashwini Murthy said. “Then there’s the footwork. After that, we have the arm movements and the head and neck movements.” 

Following their success at Sanedo, the team competed at three more competitions, ending their competitive run at Gateway to Raas at Saint Louis University. Cheered on by several alumni who came to watch the performance, the team placed third, marking the first time in the club’s history where the team has placed in multiple competitions in a year.

“All those people who were on the team when Rohan and I were first-year students had their moment of placing because the year before Rohan and I joined, we placed and were like ‘Oh we’re gonna do that again,’ and it always felt like we never got there,” D’Ottone said. “So it was a great circular moment to come back to placing again.” 

The members attribute their success to the welcoming environment and lively spirit created by the team. The motto “Raas means family” was cited throughout interviews by many of the Raas dancers. Ravirala also emphasized the enjoyment-focused mentality that dancers come to competitions with. 

“We’ve never set expectations for these competitions. We always go just to have fun and to have a better set every time. This year, we had a good attitude. Everyone got along really well, and practices were really fun and focused,” he said.

Noorani, one of the newcomers, said she was hopeful for the years to come.  

“I’m excited because we do have a large batch of these freshmen and sophomores who just joined the team,” she said. “We’ve already done a pretty significant job in the history of Raas so far, and to have the team composed of like half freshman and sophomores, moving forward, I think we could truly make a big impact.”



To watch WURaas’s podium performance, see the video below. 

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