The sounds of Bollywood music, laughter, and roars of dance fill the room, while flowing, colorful costumes capture everyone’s attention.
This is the University of Kansas Ziva Bollywood Fusion Dance Team, a group that has practiced three times a week since 2008 for creative routines and mashups at local events and competitions across the country.
The team combines multiple styles of dance including Bhangra, Hip Hop, Classical, South Indian, Contemporary, Tollywood and Bollywood. The hybrid form of music comes from Bollywood, the Indian film industry.
Their motto, “Live to dance,” comes from their team name, Jeeva, which is derived from the Sanskrit word Jiva, which means “to live.”
Senior co-captain Keira Dobbs from Mays, Kansas, said the 10-student team had three more performances this fall than in previous fall semesters. With more in-person events emerging after the pandemic, there are more opportunities. dance.
Vice Captain of Overland Park, Subha Sundar has been trained in classical dance since he was five years old. Sharing her dance choreography and her culture is one of her favorite things about being on a team.
However, not everyone at Jeeva has an extensive background in dance. Dobbs is currently the only white entrant, with her year of jazz experience ahead of Jeeva. The rest comes from learning online and from my teammates.
Dobbs only wanted to dance in college, and after trying out in multiple dance groups, Jeeva’s structure and dynamics ultimately drew her in.
In her first year with the team, she drove the new member’s car to Kentucky for the first competition when she popped a tire. The group Dobbs tied in the Highway debacle is still in the club four years later.
“This club is very important to me because it’s where I met my best friends,” Dobbs said. “It’s always been an opportunity to dance, a creative outlet, and an integral part of my college experience.”
During the pandemic, the team learned the dance online and still practiced once a week by teaching the dance to anyone via Zoom, even if there were no performances to prepare.
“I just wanted to keep Ziva alive,” Dobbs said. “And dance.”
Keeping Jeeva alive also proved important to third co-captain Maya Shanmugam, a sophomore at Overland Park. Shanmugam studied dance in college and remembers that at a young age she saw Jeeva and wanted to be part of her team.
Shanmugam said, “I love music in general and it’s special to be able to express it in a different medium than my friends’ and mine’s.
At formal events, dancers wear traditional costumes, and uniforms vary depending on the occasion and dance.
On November 12th, the team dressed in all black to help them dance a four-minute hip-hop fusion set. The event at the Lied Center, called Infusion, was organized by Seva Dance, an Indian dance school based in Olathe with 140 students.
“[Jeeva] I wanted to be a part of this idea and the charity aspect was great,” said Mega Chandramohan, co-founder of Seva. “Since the event was on their campus, I thought it would be a good way to get them involved and showcase our culture.”
According to Ami Sanjanwala, co-founder of the dance school, some of Seva’s alumni have continued their love of Bollywood dance with Jeeva over the last few years.
Other communities on campus, such as the South Asian Student Association (SASA) and the Indian Jayhawks, provide opportunities for cultural events that Jeeva regularly attends.
Most recently, Jeeva danced at a mock mehndi, an event involving dancing, henna, food, and other traditional activities to spread awareness of Indian and Pakistani culture.
I think Jiva is special because it’s not just for Indians. I have a lot of white, Hispanic, and black friends who attend his events in these communities,” Sundar said. “We can celebrate our culture and teach others about our culture.”