The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 9th

A UNC Indian dance team heads to Atlanta

Members of Tar Heel Raas Indian dance team toss ghadas during practice. The team is preparing for a national competition in Atlanta
Buy Photos Members of Tar Heel Raas Indian dance team toss ghadas during practice. The team is preparing for a national competition in Atlanta

In high school Paarth Mehta had few opportunities to perform the traditional Indian dance he loves so much.

But things have changed.

Today Mehta is leading UNC's Tar Heel Raas Indian dance team to a nationwide Indian dance competition in Atlanta.

Before Mehta came to UNC he said he rarely attended Navratri an Indian festival that celebrates the coming of the fall season.

But once at UNC" he instantly came into a group of the same culture where he could dance and celebrate his heritage.

""I felt like I knew I was doing something right"" he said.

Mehta said he knows his team will be ready for competition this weekend, taking the values his traditional family has instilled to strive for success.

It's become someone" do something make some money and that's your life" he said, adding that these values will fuel his energy on stage.

The competition has three categories: Fusion, Bhangra and Raas Garba.

Four teams will compete in each category and Tar Heel Raas will compete in the Raas Garba category against teams from Austin, Texas and Richmond, Va. and Atlanta.

Raas Garba is the traditional dance of the Gujrat region of Western India.

The dance differs from Bhangra, which comes from the nearby region of Punjab.

There's a regional difference of course and then just the style is different as well"" Mehta said, noting how Raas Garba also uses music from Gujrat rather than Punjab.

Most footwork performed by Bhangra dancers involves dancing by kicking their legs in front of their body, while Raas Garba steps are mostly done below the waist.

But this weekend when Tar Heel Raas competes, there will be a small link between Raas Garba and Bhangra.

Anish Thakkar, normally the UNC Bhangra Elite dohli, the person who provides a bongo-like drum beat, will be playing for Tar Heel Raas. He said playing is an abnormal display of friendship extended from the 12-year veteran group.

This campus has so much talent" so much diversity that if we just shared everything it would be so much more enjoyable" he said.

Many dancers said Tar Heel Raas gives them a chance to reconnect with their culture.

Nirav Lackhani, a member of the group, said dancing allows him to connect with his roots as his parents are from Gujrat.

It's actually a traditional dance where my parents are from in India"" he said.

But the team isn't just limited to Indian dancers.

Britton Baxley, the team's only white member, said being on the team is a great cultural experience.

Even in the face of competition, this dance team has become more than just steps and performances for all involved.

My core group of friends are these Raas Garba people"" Mehta said. It's become like my family in a sense.""

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