A night of mayhem

raas_dance_useThe University of Miami and the South Florida community came together for a night of sheer mayhem at the Julius Littman Performing Arts Center in North Miami Beach on Saturday night. 

Miami Mayhem, a national cultural dance competition in its second year, featured 10 of the nation’s top raas teams – Case Western, Duke, Florida, George Washington, Maryland, Penn State, University of California Riverside and Stanford. The competition also had exhibition acts from USF Garba, Hurricane Bhangra and Hurricane Raas.

“Raas is a form of Indian cultural dance, which originated from Western India,” said senior Shawn Shah, a pre-medical student and one of the executive co-chairs of Miami Mayhem. “It is a very energetic dance form, which utilizes dandiyas [dance sticks].”

The electrifying competition showcased some of the best talent in the entire country, as witnessed by the sold-out crowd of over 950 people.

The competition was highlighted by three teams in particular. UF’s Gator Raas finished in third place and took home $750. The GW Raas Team left the audience asking for more, as they put together a second place performance, which allowed them to walk away with $1,250.

When it was all said and done, though, it was the Penn State Ghaamudyaz who left the audience with their jaws dropped, as they danced their way to a first place finish, $2,000 and an automatic bid to Raas Nationals.

“It was an amazing event,” sophomore Christine Smith said. “I knew nothing about raas before coming to this event. I just came along because my friends were going. I am really glad I came, though. It was an amazing cultural experience. The teams were fantastic and filled with so much energy and enthusiasm, and I feel like I want to try out for our campus team next year.”

This year’s Miami Mayhem Committee included 25 University of Miami students, who have been putting time and energy into assuring that this event be a success since last March.

“Our executive board has worked extremely diligently in fulfilling all of their responsibilities,” said senior Amar Mandalia, a pre-medical student and one of the executive co-chairs of Miami Mayhem. “They are the real reason the event was such a big success, not to mention all the help given to us by the Indian Students Association, the Hindu Students’ Council and some UM alumni.”

The show, itself, ran very smoothly and featured many innovative and interactive ideas, such as live interviews with the teams and team introduction videos, which captured the audience.

In addition to simply putting on a show, the competition also featured a charity component.

“We are donating a portion of our budget to the Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust,” Shah said. “Ratna Nidhi is a non-profit organization that is striving to raise money for the children who were recently orphaned by the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.”

The night and the event was best summed up by Mandalia, who said, “We are all very fortunate. We have been given the opportunity to spread our culture to the University of Miami and to South Florida. Our goal was to bring some excitement and happiness in the lives of those here and the children in India. I think we met that goal.”