All performing members of “Journey Through India” appear onstage at the conclusion of the show. Photo by Alex Dodd.

Bollywood may be well known, but it only scratches the surface of Indian culture.

On April 20, hundreds gathered to watch the Indian Student Association’s (ISA) 19th annual culture show, “Journey Through India.” The show featured dances, vocal performances and stand-up comedy. 

“Through this show, we try to demonstrate how diverse our country is. There’s not just one Indian culture,” said second-year and show director Harshul Srivastava. “There are multiple throughout the country.” 

The assortment of acts echoed this sentiment. Raas Leela, a UC Santa Cruz dance group, performed in the Raas style, a traditional Indian folk dance from Gujarat. Apna Virsa, another on-campus group, performed Bhangra dances, a traditional form originating from the Punjab region.

Rangeela, a dance group that fuses classical Indian dance with contemporary English genres, performed multiple routines, offering spectators a glimpse into Indian culture while harmonizing with the show’s cultural hybridization theme.

“Dance is a universal language,” said Priyanka Parthasarathi, captain of the Rangeela team. “It’s one thing just looking at one culture and appreciating it, but seeing how it connects with your own world […] is an entirely new experience.” 

Some performers kept it classical, exhibiting traditional forms of Indian culture.

The humming sitar of Keshav Batish and steady rhythm set by Sam Cushman’s tablas, traditional drums, displayed the rāāg musical tradition. In a subsequent performance, Prateek Arora’s sweeping body movements, peaceful poses and jingling ankles showed the Kathak dance tradition.

Although dance and musical performances provided the show’s pop, a skit featuring six Indian UCSC students gave it a thematic backbone. The skit followed the students until their graduation, playing on the shared experiences of Indian college students.

“We wanted it to be something relatable this year,” show director Harshul Srivastava said. “Every year it’s been a lot about Indian culture. Having a college theme is something everyone from all groups can relate to.” 

This year’s show enjoyed success unseen in past years, with about 230 tickets sold. Srivastava attributed the accomplishment to the ISA’s expanded leadership board, which allowed it to spend more time developing the  show. 

“We were all really overwhelmed when we found out we had sold so many tickets,” Srivastava said. “It was April 20, so we weren’t sure how many people would show up.”

Throughout the show, the audience cheered and whooped whenever possible. A combination of family members and students, the crowd loved the exhibition of Indian culture composed by ISA.

“The show has been great,” said Jignesh, a parent of a student performer. “It’s all about the students performing. That’s what the excitement is about.”

“Journey Through India” offered audience members a broad cultural education. The event conveyed valuable lessons about Indian culture by fusing together Indian and English  styles. 

“It’s a long road to getting everyone to understand our show is not just a bunch of performers. There’s a deeper meaning there,” Srivastava said. “People fall in love with Indian culture after watching the show. They fall in love with our colors, our food and our stories.”