If the slew of catchy phrases, witty posters, and pop-culture references advertising this year’s show is any indication, the South Asian Students Association is departing from the traditional tone of previous years and putting on a more modern and accessible performance.
The student-run production will still include dance, instrumental, and singing numbers. In fact, this show will have more acts than any previous performance, as well as over 125 participants. However, SASA is also aiming to make this year’s production more youthful and vibrant. “This year we catered to the energy of the show rather than the length of the show. We hope the audience can see the versatility of the choreography but also the high energy of the performers,” said second-year Malini Kartha, one of SASA’s three show-team directors.
The show will also be featuring more than just dance performances. This year’s production will feature rap music, performed by a South Side artist, Koncept. Kalaripayattu, an ancient martial art from Southern India, will also make a first-time appearance. An art form that crosses the boundary between dance and martial arts, Kalaripayattu even uses swords in its performance. To keep the show energetic and youthful, SASA’s production will include hip-hop fusion dance in addition to the classical dances normally featured.
This year’s theme for the SASA show is “SASA Night Live,” a play off of the popular show “Saturday Night Live.” The three-hour-long show models SNL’s fast-paced, lively entertainment. “This year we have increased the number of acts with shorter time slots so that the audience is constantly exposed to a change in what they’re seeing and are also exposed to a wider range of dance styles,” said Sid Biswas, a fourth-year and also one of the show directors.
Traditionally the show focused primarily on a story with a more serious narrative. “In the past the whole show would be about a marriage or arranged marriage—idiosyncratic things about our culture and family values,” said fourth-year Prunil Patel, another of the show’s directors. “This year we are completely changing the style of the show. We want to show a really fresh, urban, youthful view of our culture and represent that in the show,” Patel said.
SASA has also revamped their marketing strategy this year. “Our main marketing strategy was to develop a lot of hype. We had a lot more exposure on campus,” Patel said. Instead of printing multiple copies of just one poster, SASA designed nine different posters, each with a different objective. “Some were just to make people laugh, some were to encourage people to buy tickets, and some were just to make people get excited and show the grand scheme of the show,” Patel said.
SASA also made a point of partnering up with other student organizations. The show’s dinner will use only decomposable materials thanks to partnership with Green Campus Initiative, and there will also be a raffle to benefit tsunami victims in Japan, in partnership with the Japanese Student Association.
The year did not start out smoothly for SASA, with the student organization receiving only half the funds it usually receives from student government. “It was a big challenge because we started off with a lot less money than in the past. We had to raise a huge amount of money to even make the show a possibility. In 10 weeks we were able to raise enough money to make it even bigger and better than [in] past years,” Patel said.
However, while the show is sure to be entertaining, the organization’s true goal is to educate a wider audience about South Asian culture. “If we can make all 1,000 audience members just laugh and smile in our show, that might make them go home and google South Asian culture and take their own time to learn about it,” Patel said.