While most Penn students are focused on the NCAA basketball games, another national competition is taking place in Dallas, Texas this weekend.
On April 3, Penn QuakeRaas, the University’s only co-ed competitive Indian dance team, will be competing at the Raas All Stars National Championships for the first time.
The team was formed in 2007 and is recognized as an official sports club funded by the Sports Club Council.
In addition to performing at Penn, the team travels across the nation throughout the year, performing at competitions in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Miami and at Pennsylvania State University.
Raas is a folk dance that originated in the Indian state of Gujarat and has spread into the competitive circuit in the United States, according to team Co-Captain and College junior Neeti Desai.
This dance form also involves the use of dandiya sticks, about 18 inches long, which are twirled and hit together to the beat of the music.
The main difference between QuakeRaas and the other South Asian dance teams on campus is that their “primary purpose is to compete, rather than just perform,” Desai said.
School teams usually participate in one of 10 regional competitions. The winners of each regional go on to partake in the national competition, according to team Co-Captain and Wharton sophomore Luv Patel. Penn QuakeRaas won first place at Maryland Masti.
The team is currently going through what they describe as “hell week,” with three or four hours of practice every night during the week before the competition.
Despite the long hours, the dancers are upbeat and confident about their performance this weekend. “We’re more ready than we’ve ever been,” Desai said. “Our confidence level is definitely at a high right now.”
College and Wharton sophomore Karishma Shah has been on the team since her freshman year.
“The team members have developed into my family on campus,” Shah said. “We have a great team dynamic, and it’s on trips like these to competitions out of town that we bond the most.”
Patel agreed, adding that the “team has grown as a group this year, meshing a lot of different personalities together.”
The team has several fans who travel out of town to see them compete.
One of these fans is College sophomore Kathryn McCabe, who first saw the team perform at Relay for Life last year.
“Their dedication and energy is admirable, and it really shows in their stellar performances,” McCabe said. “There’s no way a group with as much energy, talent and dedication as Penn Raas could not do well at Nationals.”
Even students who are no longer a part of the team support the group wholeheartedly.
“I still go to practices and hang out with the team members,” College junior Alok Choksi said. “I’m no longer a part of the team, but the team is still a huge part of my life.”
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