Penn State

College teams showcase Bollywood-style fusion dance at Penn State competition

ASU Andaaz from Arizona State performs at Infusion in Eisenhower Auditorium on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Infusion brought nine college teams from across the country to perform in the dance competition.
ASU Andaaz from Arizona State performs at Infusion in Eisenhower Auditorium on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Infusion brought nine college teams from across the country to perform in the dance competition. CDT photo

Arizona State Andaaz hit the stage of the Eisenhower Auditorium on Saturday, and an estimated 1,500 people in the audience went nuts.

In unison, members of the 18-person dance team performed a move where they jumped on one foot with one hand over their head, and then, without missing a beat, switched to the other foot and rocked back and forth to the beat of a dance mix.

Their goal was to walk away as winners of Penn State’s annual Infusion dance competition that could take the team to the national championship, called Bollywood America, held in Phoenix, next month.

That would mean the team could go into it with a hometown advantage.

Senior dance captains Mayuri Gupta, of Portland, Ore., and Suhas Athrey, of Bangalore, India, both said the trip to State College and Penn State was “crazy,” but “bittersweet.”

They flew from Phoenix on Friday night and arrived into Newark, N.J., early Saturday morning and then drove to State College. They planned to fly back to Arizona early Sunday morning.

Gupta said the group was running on a few hours of sleep and adrenaline.

“This really could be our last time dancing with this team so we’re just making the most of it,” Gupta said. “It’s been a wild ride and we just went into it trying to make Happy Valley a little happier, and we couldn’t be more pleased as everyone’s been so welcoming and so organized to make this a great experience.”

Infusion — in its third year — is a collegiate Filmi-Fusion dance competition.

Nine dance teams from around the country competed on Saturday night to showcase Bollywood-style fusion dance.

And it was hosted by Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014 — a Syracuse, N.Y., native and University of Michigan graduate — whose family comes from Vijayawada, India.

Davuluri was the first contestant of Indian descent to win the Miss America competition, representing New York State.

After submitting audition tapes, a committee and a group of judges chose the top nine dance teams from colleges and universities from across the country including Drexel’s Broad Street Baadshahz, EuphorEk Ada from New York City, Boston University’s Jalwa, Delaware’s Kamaal, UPenn’s PennMasti, Rutgers’ SAPA, Michigan State’s Spartan Zariya, and UC Dhadak from the University of Cincinnati.

Event spokeswoman Gitanjali Bhushan said that among the teams included a total of more than 160 dancers.

“The passion they have is incredible,” she said. “Their hard work shows off when they hit the stage, and I think more than anything they just want to dance to create inspiration.”

Filmi-Fusion combines two dance styles: Hindi film dance and fusion, Bhushan said.

Hindi film dance focuses on traditional Bollywood-style dance, while fusion blends a variety of South Asian dance styles with Western dance forms like hip-hop, ballet and lyrical.

Athrey said ASU Andaaz began practicing in May. By September a group of dancers were selected who began choreographing an eight-minute routine.

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “We look at ourselves like family. We call us ‘ohana,’ (meaning family) and we love doing what we do to show our Indian culture.”

In December, audition tapes were due for Infusion, and a few weeks later, the teams found out their destiny, Bhushan said.

Other teams performed a “Toy Story”-inspired dance, and dances choreographed to horror, love and loss, and a theme to the show, “How I Met Your Mother” that included a yellow umbrella as a prop — a signature of the former television sitcom.

“No team’s disappointing,” Bhushan said.

Bhushan said the next step is to start all over again.

“We never stop,” she said with a laugh. “We look for a new board, work through the summer and begin publicity. It’s so rewarding to be able to share this type of dance with everyone.”

Proceeds from Saturday night’s event will also be donated to the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.