On Saturday Apr. 23 at 1:30 p.m., Top Naach, Muhlenberg’s South Asian Cultural Association and dance team, hosted an annual festival to commemorate Holi, the spring festival of colors and love. The performance took place in the Event Space, and was complete with decorations and a number of traditional Indian dishes, which were available for consumption by the public.
The event attracted a crowd, which included a number of faculty and students, who packed both the provided seating areas and open space against the outer walls. Additionally, Top Naach blocked off the front row of seats for family members of the performers.
“It was so exciting to hear that the audience learned about South Asian culture through the performance including the significance of the Haldi ceremony, what henna represents and the stories behind Holi.”-Sruti Sailam ’23
After a few minutes, the organization’s executive board members addressed the crowd, thanking the Office of Multicultural Life for its direct involvement and support in the success of this event, as well as all of the student organizations that participated.
Other dance ensembles on campus opened for Top Naach, including Copacetic Rhythms, the Mayhem Step Team, MINT and Perkulators.
After that, Top Naach took the stage, presenting the story of two Muhlenberg students, portrayed by Syeda Islam ‘23 and Noah Mayan Ryall ‘25, who met and fell in love on campus, and how they took part in a traditional South Asian wedding ceremony three years later.
Top Naach Treasurer Shivani Iyer ‘23 said, “When it came to choosing a theme for our performance, we really wanted to do something different from past years so that we were both educating and entertaining the audience. This really led us to the theme of a wedding where we could showcase some fun traditions commonly associated with certain types of Indian weddings.”
Iyer also shared insights about the planning and choreography for the festival. She said, “In terms of choreo[graphy], we also wanted [to] showcase different dance styles in addition to our typical Bollywood style. This semester we were able to bring in elements of bhangra (a form of Punjabi folk dance), classical styles like kathak/Bharathnatyam and also raas.”
An audio presentation, which included a combination of voiceover work and musical numbers, provided a narrative explanation of the story of Krishna and Radha, shared many traditions of South Asian weddings. According to the story, Krishna worried that his bride Radha would not accept him due to his dark blue skin. Krishna’s mother, Yashoda, suggested that he smear some coloured powder on Radha’s face.
In the spirit of the message of the story, the ensemble was shown painting the faces and extremities of the bride and groom during the ceremony with a blue turmeric paste.
Sruti Sailam ‘23, public relations chair for Top Naach, shared, “It was so exciting to hear that the audience learned about South Asian culture through the performance including the significance of the Haldi ceremony, what henna represents and the stories behind Holi.”
“I was so proud of how Holi turned out and how it all came together in the end,” explained Iyer. “It required a lot of effort on the part of the eboard and choreographers to put something new together, especially after not having experienced our own Holi since coming to Muhlenberg.”
After the performance, the festival took a 10 minute intermission, and guests were encouraged to join Top Naach on the college green to enjoy the sunny afternoon playing with colored powders.
“I haven’t experienced that much open, unconditional joy since I was 12 [years old] playing with water balloons,” said Isabelle Peters ‘24, about the outdoor festivities.
Iyer added, “My favorite part of the whole event was definitely throwing colors. This was actually my first time actually celebrating Holi, because my family who come from a southern region of India, also did not grow up celebrating it. So being able to experience it with a big group of my friends and peers is something I don’t think I will ever forget.”