Diwali Lights up Celebratory Functions
Diwali celebrations happen in all shapes and forms, from the traditional temple poojas blending modern firecracker explosions to trendy Diwali parties with DJ's spinning remixed Bhangra songs. Atlanta-based Indian organizations celebrate Diwali hosting annual functions accommodating the escalating desi population. Two such groups, NetIP Atlanta and UISA (United Indian Student Alliance), held a Diwali Ball and Diwali Show respectively at artistic venues to not only celebrate Diwali but also to highlight unity through art.
NetIP (Network of Indian Professionals) Atlanta was born from PILOT (Professional Indian Leaders of Tomorrow) in 2001. NetIP is a national, non-profit organization bringing together young Indian professionals through networking events, community service and social gatherings. On November 9, 2002, NetIP Atlanta held its annual Diwali Ball at the ultra hip Atlanta Contemporary Arts Museum in midtown. With almost 200 in attendance, the venue had ample space to roam through the open viewing art rooms, dance to the pulsating rhythms or relax in the designated eating area. The all-inclusive ticket price bought entertainment by a crowd favorite desi DJ whose innate spinning gifts brought even clumsy left-footers to a dancing frenzy. Also, Zyka catered the food and premium liquor drinks poured endlessly by a helpful array of bartenders mainly concerned with keeping the crowd happy.
The event surprisingly drew only a local crowd though in years past, many traveled nationally for Hot-lanta's annual Diwali party. Though some may have been thwarted by flying concerns, many were diverted by the high-ticket price. The $55 nonmember ticket ($45 for members) seemed not to take in account the majority Indian vegetarian audience.���Gitika Ahuja, Atlanta-based ABC News producer, said 'I was really unimpressed with the food. I expected dinner with a ticket price of $55 but instead [vegetarians] got carrot sticks and rice.'
Hungry stomach or not, the art venue was definitely a hit amongst party guests. Another executive board member commentated that the open space provided for more guest mingling because partygoers were not just relegated to the same old options. The Art Museum let people view the art, even buy a piece as one guest did, dance without bumping into others and talk with friends on cozy couches or contemporary orange lounge chairs.
Most attendees had 'a ball' as one quoted on her way to an after party. The DJ spun all the hot singles which brought arm-raising cheers from the crowd. Jostled by staff members to exit the building as the 2 AM hour struck, most people loitered in the parking lot, not yet ready to go home. Folks talked, joked and danced outside, keeping the good times rolling.
The Diwali festivities didn't stop with the NetIP Atlanta ball, on November 10, 2002 UISA hosted its annual Diwali show at the Georgia Tech Robert Ferst Center for the Arts. United Indian Students Alliance formed in 1992 consists of representatives from Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Georgia State University and Emory University. Each school's Indian Cultural Exchange (ICE) organization appoints two students to serve on the UISA board which primary responsibility is to produce the annual Diwali show. Swati Panchal, UISA President and senior at Georgia State University, states UISA also participates in community events such as the Vibha (formerly known as CRY) Walk and host fundraisers to help defray Diwali show cost. Organizing the show, Panchal, states, starts the year prior to the event. 'You have to book the venue at least a year in advance or otherwise you're scrambling at the last minute,' Panchal added. The UISA planning paid off handsomely as a packed GA Tech auditorium danced in aisles, raised their hands in 'raise the roof' style and applauded madly for their peers showcasing talent, artistry and creativity.
The UISA Diwali show was a visionary masterpiece loaded with tangible energy. There were 13 acts together divided by an intermission. Panchal explained that each act had to try-out and make the final cut before a slot was offered. 'The talent pool was rich with creativity but we had to cut 5 acts because we wanted to keep it diverse,' she said. The first half brought thunderous applause for Ms. India Georgia's, Gayatri Patel (Emory University student) twirling dance number to 'Silsila Hai Chaahat Ka'. It was not undone by the creativity of the dance drama dream interpretation through bharat natum and fusion dance sequences as a young man lay sleeping on stage. Between the high-energy, well-choreographed acts, the audience withstood the sometimes rambling of two female UGA students who bravely mc'd the first half. Though, at times, the delivery seemed ill-timed, the 10 commandments of desi parent's narration was funny and well-written.
Ranking high on the desi parent commandments was the culturally defining 'Indian Standard Time' reasoning where arriving a hour after the time stated is more decorum than an excuse, the Diwali Show flew to the opposite spectrum by starting and more importantly, ending on time. Its efficient organization was mainly due to 'planning things more fully than last year and the board working so well together,' Panchal said. One audience member stated how the show's dance quality was much more creative versus last year. One such example was the first half's dance sequence to 'Breathless' spectacularly combining light, sound and artistic dance formations to rounds of rousing audience applause. 'Breathless' performer, Roshni Patel, UGA student, stated, 'Hearing the crowd get into it made practicing 3 hours a week for five months all worth it.'
The second half brought the house to its feet with roof-raising bhangra sequence performed by Azaadi Studios Part II. The perfectly chosen songs did not surpass its masterful choreography. A personal favorite was the dance performed by the all-male group Heart Throbs whose electricity, flexibility and creative use of costumes were comparable to Cirque de Soleil performers. The UISA Diwali show performer's artistic creativity shined as I've not seen in a long time. Their disciplined practices delivered handsomely as each act withstood its ground even if its precedent was given a standing ovation.
The Atlanta organizations Diwali celebrations were a definitive success. The NetIP Atlanta Diwali Ball held at the innovative, beautiful Atlanta Contemporary Arts Museum combined imaginative art pieces with a gregarious crowd. The UISA Diwali show showcased imagination through dance numbers, songs, and artistic interpretations through the college student's vitality and boundless energy.
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