Students celebrate South Asian culture at PhillyFest
Penn Masala, along with groups from several other universities, performed at the event
January 29, 2012, 10:45 pm·
Brooke Hess-Homeier | DP
A fusion of South Asian dance and rhythms colored Philadelphia Saturday night.
Around fifteen hundred people filled Merriam Theater in Center City for PhillyFest, a celebration of South Asian culture that aims “to build understanding and acceptance for diversity.”
Dressed in Bollywood-style colorful attire, the teams performed fast-paced dance routines combining traditional South Asian rhythms with contemporary Western music.
Hosted by singer, songwriter, actor and professional dancer Kiran Shergill and musician, actor and model Seril James, the event hosted ten dance teams and also featured Penn Masala, a Hindi a cappella group at Penn.
Penn Masala opened the second part of the competition to cheers from the audience, and closed its performance with part of the crowd dancing to its music. Rutgers University’s Dhol Effect closed the show with a fusion of rhythms centered around a Punjabi drum.
For seven years, PhillyFest has been a battleground for South Asian dance groups from all over the country. The teams compete for prizes of over $5,000 and the PhillyFest Cup.
This year, ten teams from schools including Stanford University, UCLA, Northwestern University, Penn State and Brown University competed for the PhillyFest championship.
The South Asian Alliance of North America, a student organization focused on promoting education and preserving the South Asian culture, hosted this year’s PhillyFest. The nonprofit hoped the competition would “bridge the gap between cultural differences and celebrate similarities [through] unity culture and dance.”
Performers expressed their excitement for the event and its purpose.
“We are teams competing with the same influences, same ideas, same background ,” said a University of Illinois student. He said PhillyFest is an opportunity for everyone to come together from all around the nation.
Earlier in the day, SAANA hosted the competition’s first ever talent showcase which featured schools in the area.
The Penn South Asia Society presented Siddharth Ashokkumar, an Indian classical violinist, and College freshman Tanvi Mittal, who performed an Indian folk dance.
“It was a really good way to get South Asian groups from similar areas to meet each other to hopefully host collaborative events in the future,” College senior and Penn SAS Vice President of External Affairs Mili Mehta said in an email.
The audience showered every dance crew — but especially Penn State JaDhoom — with cheers and applause. At the end of the night, UCLA Nashaa walked away the PhillyFest champions, Broad Street Baadshahz placed second and Brown Badmaash Dance Company took home the third place medal.
“It’s a great show,” said Aisha Patel, a Princeton student. “All the performances are full of energy.”