There is an Indian saying, “The goddess of learning and the arts will not smile upon you unless you remember the contributions of your elders.”
Stony Brook’s Taandava Indian dance team had the crowd, along with the goddess, smiling as they performed classical dances for a cause this Saturday at the Charles B. Wang Center.
“Jana Seva,” meaning “humanism,” was apparent, as donations from the night supported Stony Brook’s Camp Kesem and Ozanam Bhavan.
Camp Kesem provides a free week-long summer camp for children with parents who have or have had cancer. Ozanam Bhavan is an organization that cares for the homeless, sick and mentally ill in India.
Justin Tamjit, volunteer of development for Camp Kesem, said, “We set up fun events throughout the year so people can come support us. We hope to expand Camp Kesem and make it a household name for students. It’s [the camp] a way for me to outlet, I have had family members that passed away from cancer and this is my way of giving back.”
The ancient South Asian Taandava dance style originates from the Hindu god Shiva and is usually performed in temples, but had a full house of family and friends flooding the Wang Center to see this young dance group perform.
The night opened with the “Ganesha Kavuthuvam” dance, a vibrant and colorful ode to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. The night followed with six more impressive compositions. The fluid steps were intertwined with rigorous movements in singular and group dancing.
The golds, reds, greens and purples drew the audience into the stories of the dances. The love and passion of the culture glowed from the stage as the dancers depicted this art form.
Stony Brook students Saroja Kolluru and Natalie Poonam Phagu founded the team in 2013. This is Stony Brook’s first-ever Indian classical dance team.
The team’s first-ever performance for a National Society of Collegiate Scholars event was two years ago.
Since then, the team has grown in numbers and reputation. Now, the group has 16 members. They will be performing in various colleges throughout the state, like St. Johns and Queens College.
What is unique about Stony Brook Taandava is its desire to keep to tradition.
Unlike many other cultural dance groups, Taandava does not wish to infuse any modern pop aesthetics into the mix of its classic Indian choreography.
In a speech after the show, Dr. S.N. Sridhar, professor of Linguistics and India Studies Director of the Center for India Studies said, “This (the dance) is a composite art form that combines poetry music dance drama as well as religion and spirituality.”
Co-founder and Vice President Phagu says that in order to pull off such an organized ensemble the team can practice five hours a day at times and over ten hours a week on average.
Phagu says that the team hopes to perform the “Jana Seva” event every year and expose the group to other schools as well.
The recent opening of a Taandava chapter in Queens College gives Stony Brook Taandava an opportunity to make more appearances in more venues.
Dedication to the dance and commitment to the culture drives the success of this group.
From an early start, Taandava plans to keep to tradition as new members join.
Twenty years from now, the group wants to maintain the legacy alive and resemble the same familiar concept of Indian classical dance.
Correction: March 9, 2015
A previous version of this article referred to the “Ganesha Kavuthuvam” dance as “Genesha Kavuthuvam”