Date May 14, 2024
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Photos: South Asian fusion student dance group stages blast from the past for spring showcase

In a nostalgic homage to early 2000s Bollywood, Brown Badmaash served up both memories and moves during its annual spring show, ‘Jawaani.’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Cargo jeans, baggy band T-shirts and the unmistakable sounds of Bollywood.

One would be forgiven for thinking they entered a time warp as dozens of dancers took the Alumnae Hall stage at Brown University in early May for Brown Badmaash’s annual spring show, “Jawaani.”

With “Jawaani” — which directly translates to “youth” in several South Asian languages — the South Asian fusion student dance group aimed to bring its audience back to childhood with a nostalgic set of early 2000s Bollywood songs, coupled with the over-the-top drama, plot twists and classic dance moves that defined the genre in that era.

“It was stuff that our parents would have on in the background or in the car, and through that, we could learn Indian history, Indian culture and even our own languages,” said Brown University junior Neil Shah, a production chair and choreographer for Badmaash. “It’s something we all grew up with, and I think that the Y2K era is something that really pulls us all together.”

Opening with a medley of well-known scenes from iconic early 2000s Bollywood movies, the spring show then moved into a program of student-choreographed performances.

“ 'Jawaani' is a whole-hearted celebration, and our goal is to just keep spreading this love and joy for South Asian culture all across campus. ”

Neil Shah Badmaash production chair, Class of 2025

As a troupe, Badmaash blends traditional Indian folk dances such as bhangra, garba, raas and kuthu. But the students also incorporate modern styles like hip-hop and contemporary, and for “Jawaani,” they collaborated with four other dance companies at Brown — Abhinaya, Fusion, Impulse and Mezcla — to produce a show that was varied as it was entertaining.

“We each bring our own cultural backgrounds to the team and put on a show that amplifies the diversity of South Asian art and culture,” Shah said.

Shah, who choreographed several routines for "Jawaani," said some pieces were soft, flowy and “lovey-dovey.”

“And then you have other pieces that are so intense — just so sweaty and you can literally feel the cramps in your legs as you’re going,” he said. “I like that every piece is different to the point where nothing feels mundane. You’re always exploring and trying something new.”

The show’s closer brought all the performers back on stage for an all-team finale that — from the choreography to the crowd singing along to each song — Shah could only describe as euphoric.

“The best part about ‘Jawaani’ is that each person who watches the show will come away with a different thing that struck them,” he said. “It’s a whole-hearted celebration, and our goal is to just keep spreading this love and joy for South Asian culture all across campus.”