Masti Exposes Students To South Asian Dance In Performances and Competitions

With performances from Sexual Chocolate, Boston College Dance Ensemble, Presenting Africa to You, Synergy, Boston College Irish Dance, UPrising, F.I.S.T.S., Masti, Fuegeo del Corazon, and Phaymus, among a few other groups, there was truly something at the annual Showdown dance competition for everyone. But only a few dance teams could take home the prize, and Masti was one of them, winning first place in the Cultural category.

Masti, the only South Asian dance team at Boston College, was founded around 11 years ago by students of the South Asian Students Association. There are 13 members on the dance team from all four grades and four captains: Aashini Shrivastav, A&S ’16; Amala Sooklal, CSON ’15; JM Becerra, A&S ’15; and Vebhav Garg, A&S ’15.

The dancers also come with a range of experience, ranging from limited experience to the more advanced level of Shrivastav, who has been doing Indian Classical Dance (Kathak) and Bollywood dance since she was 2 years old.

For the performances, the captains choreograph most of the dances. There are also open choreography sessions “to encourage the other members of the team to contribute their fresh ideas and moves,” Shrivastav said. The group choreographs routines that blend “Filmi/Bollywood, Fusion, Bhangra, Garba, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, and more,” according to its website.

In earlier years, Masti tried to focus on the South Asian part of dance team’s identity as much as possible, which “led to an exhaustion of ideas and moves for our routines,” Shrivastav said.

In the past year, there has been a movement toward trying newer things and experimenting with the choreography. Last year, for example, the team implemented new Bollywood hip-hop and belly dance moves, which Shrivastav said were extremely successful for the team and have “led [it] to be bolder with ideas for this year.”

Masti has not moved entirely away from its South Asian heritage, however. The team works to expose the BC community to a form of dance that many students may not otherwise have encountered. The team also hopes to get BC students involved in the dancing itself, as this year they hope to be able to host workshops to teach the dances.

Masti has brought its dances to many places and competitions, both on and off the BC campus. By the end of the fall semester, the team will have performed at Harvard, Bentley, and Brandeis. This amount of performances is “a new milestone for the team,” Shrivastav said. On campus, the team does any performance that fits into its busy schedule.

This semester, its has performed at BC Street and the Timmy Global Health Benefit concert, and will perform at Dance Ensemble’s showcase in December. Coming up, the team will showcase its dancing at the SASA Culture Show, the BC Arts Festival, and Showdown, which is the only event in which Masti competes.

Yet, for this dance team, the focus is not on the competitions or winning as much as it is on family. Because it is a small team, Masti gives its members a chance to connect with each other in a small community within the thousands of students at BC.

“What I particularly love about Masti is the emphasis on the family aspect,” Shrivastav said. “Masti means ‘fun’ in Hindi, and what the captains try to do is instill a sense of fun and community into the team members. Our belief is that if we can create a strong enough ‘family bond’, this love and fun will be exhibited during our performances making them twice as amazing for the audience.”

This sentiment is echoed by others on the team, including Shefali Shrivastava, CSOM ’15. Shrivastava came into BC knowing that she wanted to dance, and, more importantly, she knew she wanted to be on a dance team, something she had never done before.

In high school Shrivastava taught Bollywood dance and learned classical, but on a team, she said, “it’s really nice to refine my dance and the art form. Others are able to teach me so that I can really improve.” Like her captains, Shrivastava loves the family and community aspect of this dance team. “I love how close we get, she said. “We’re just so committed and share this hobby, yet we are a really diverse group.”

With Showdown coming later in the year, it’s safe to say Masti will be training hard to keep its title.

Featured Image courtesy of Masti