The virtual college semester has proved to be a challenge for everyone, including Top Naach, the South Asian dance and culture club here at Muhlenberg College. The group continues to offer intimate and welcoming events despite the virtual atmosphere, especially with their virtual event on Friday, Nov. 4, celebrating Diwali and the power of connection. Diwali is a religious holiday which is celebrated between mid-October and mid-November. The celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights and focuses on the power of light overcoming the forces of darkness. Top Naach’s virtual event this year highlighted this important and special holiday while also opening up the event to general conversation, friendly dialogue, and experiences for everyone to get involved.
The celebration was filled with Muhlenberg College students, alumni, faculty, and even family members. Dr. Parikh, an assistant professor of Religion Studies at Muhlenberg, joined the event. Some of the alumni present were Taj Singh ’19 and Annu Suresh ’19, among others. Singh and some of the other attendees present were the founders of Top Naach and vital in the creation of this important club. This was on top of the various students currently enrolled at the College and also involved with Top Naach. Roshni Patel ‘21, the current president of Top Naach, guided the flow of the event and also provided breakout rooms to allow for more personal and individual interactions between attendees. The other members of the board, Ruhani Singh ’23, the treasurer, and Michelle Rajan ‘20, the vice president, also made sure the event went along smoothly and everyone felt comfortable. Singh is also an international student from India so it was very interesting to learn about her personal experience with Diwali, especially with the current restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Top Naach usually hosts a very complex and vigorous event for the Festival of Lights in the Seegers Union Event Space with food catering, dance performances, information about Diwali, and a multitude of other elements; However, this was not possible given the virtual platform and health restrictions. Patel says, “As some of you may know, Top Naach holds two annual performances to celebrate Diwali and Holi. Due to COVID-19 we were unable to hold a Diwali performance, but we wanted to continue dancing and bonding as a team on a virtual platform.”
The event featured a screening of Rangila, a performance created for the Marginalized Voices Theatre Arts Festival (MVTAF), focusing on the various Desi backgrounds of dance in South Asia. The film was directed, edited and co-choreographed by Amisha Datta ’21, and it featured performances by Patel, Singh and Datta. A highlight of this recorded dance was the beauty of seeing the various places in which these wonderful performers could dance and fill these spaces with love.
This event proved to be a true success for Top Naach and for anyone who wanted to represent their South Asian heritage and to just mingle with old and new friends. The event allowed for alumni to feel welcome once again and to reflect on all the challenges and hopes this year has provided. For some it meant starting graduate school and continuing their motivation to tackle medical school and other members were current students trying to continue their path here at Muhlenberg, or some were first-years just beginning their college career.
The current situation and complex semester also allowed for growth in Top Naach’s e-board and how they view their group and activities. Patel says, “As President of Top Naach, I have never expected to be a leader during a pandemic; however, I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity. The pandemic has challenged my leadership and team player abilities, and I can confidently say that I have grown a lot as a student, friend, and a club leader.” This was just one of the many ways Top Naach has connected this semester since they have been doing virtual dance parties and game nights to allow for relaxation and for friends to just interact.
There is always room for more members and if anyone is interested, feel free to reach out to Patel or another member of the e-board. Michelle Rajan ‘21 said, “If anyone’s interested in joining Top Naach, I wouldn’t let the sadness of missing out on in-person dancing deter you from joining. We’ve recently started doing game nights and just finding more ways to be together while apart. So if you want to relax and get to know South Asian culture a bit more while in the middle of a pandemic, then Top Naach is the club for you.”
As stated by Patel, “Top Naach is all in this together, through thick and thin!”