FOGANA National Competition Returning to Atlanta
After the successful completion of the 2003 southeastern regional competition, FOGANA (Federation of Gujarati Association of North America) is expected to bring the national competition back to Atlanta in 2005. Next year's regional competition is slated to be held in Raleigh, NC. This event takes no lesser consideration for planning purposes than a mini Olympics, and the entire organizing committee ? including stalwarts such as Mustafa Ajmeri, Varsha Patel, Dr. and Mrs. Sailesh Gandhi amongst others ? left no stone unturned towards that end.
The Clayton County Performing Arts Theater was abuzz with approximately 2000 people in glamorous traditional attires, from all over the southeast, gathered here to see talented youngsters perform with a combination of rhythmic footwork and grace. This is the 23rd year of the competition and to date 23,000 youngsters have participated, according to Smita Patel, one of the leading ladies of FOGANA. A total of 20 teams competed, representing the states of NC, SC, AL, TN, FL and GA. Diplomat Hotels offered rooms to stay, Shree Shakti Mandir Group offered meals, and Madras Sarvana Bhavan offered a delicious spread, which was free to all the participating teams.
The stage had a very simple banner that comprised the classical Raas-Garba dance image with ?FOGANA SE Regional Competition' inscribed on it. Hung from the center of the stage rafters with a plain white curtain backdrop a few feet behind it, it allowed for the kaleidoscope of lights to play virtual imagery for the spectators, adding a touch of shiny hue on the contestants. Sight, sound and action fused together to create an unforgettable replay of rural and rustic Gujarat. The competition was split amongst four groups: Minor, Junior, Senior and Senior Adult. Within these groups were the sub-groups of Garba, Folk Dance and Raas. The tapestry of colors on the young girls' ghagra-cholis ranged from yellow, purple, burgundy, parrot green, black, silver, blood red to many other from the paint palette, aptly coordinated with traditional cosmetic jewelry. At the same time, the young men looked regal in their traditional white dhoti-kafnis accented with rainbow-colored trims. The audience was held in a trance by the melodious sound tracks performed by the legendary "pahadi" folk singers such as Diwaliben Bhil, Praful Dave, Kishore Manraja, Falguni Pathak and Sheela Dave. The flavors varied from adivasi tunes to the typical raas-garba love songs narrating the episodes of Radha-Krishna.
The program started with an invocation to God, followed by the Indian and American national anthems and the chairperson's address. Other speakers included Vernon Jones, CEO of DeKalb County; and Mike Patel, Advisor to President Bush's Eisenhower Commission. All the winners were recognized by being called on stage and presented a specially crafted FOGANA trophy. The entire day's proceedings were extraordinarily orderly. Apart from the awkwardly repetitious housekeeping announcements of "no photography, no video shooting" and the lack of an experienced and cheerful master of ceremonies, the event was a superb presentation. Kudos to the organizing team for a brilliant effort!
- Viren Mayani
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