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‘I Hate Love Stories’: SAF’s Cultural Extravaganza

Courtesy of The Highlander

The University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) South Asian Federation (SAF) celebrated its fifth annual culture show at the University Theatre on May 11, 2024. SAF is a dedicated organization that aims to unite the South Asian population at UCR, through various events such as socials, dance workshops, picnics, “chai talks” and the SAF Banquet. One of their most notable events is the extraordinary Culture Show. The board of directors for this year’s Culture Show — Parnika Nammi, Ruth Rapuri and Siya Panchal — worked vigorously for an entire year with their cast and ensemble to present “I Hate Love Stories.”

The directors’ vision was to showcase the diverse facets of South Asia through a plethora of acts, making it a truly immersive experience. They drew from lessons learned in previous years to enhance and personalize this year’s production, with program assistants from last year now leading the show as their own production. The sense of camaraderie within the team and the broader SAF community was extremely evident, with everyone contributing significantly to the success of the show.

“I Hate Love Stories” came to be over the summer after the fourth Culture Show ended, and Panchal desired to see romance back on the stage, which served as the basis for their production. The team was set on a love story that would not end the way the audience expected and would be “a rollercoaster of emotions.” The play followed the lives of four childhood friends: Zain (Dhruv Patel), Priya (Heili Shah), Rishi (Aryan Renjith) and Pooja (Nikki Doiphode) who graduated college and planned a trip around South Asia. The story made for a perfect stage for elaborate performances displayed by various UCR South Asian Clubs, including a fashion show and choreography by Riya Bhakta and Richa Patel.

The SAF Culture Show featured a diverse range of performances that captivated audiences and celebrated the rich cultural heritage of South Asia. Among the standout acts were Raas, a co-ed garba team known for their energetic and synchronized movements, showcasing traditional Gujarati folk dance with modern flair. Their performance resonated with the audience, highlighting the cultural significance of garba in South Asian festivities. 

Raaga, the coed South Asian fusion a cappella group, mesmerized the crowd with their harmonious vocals. Additionally, the Peacock Dance from Sri Lanka was a wonderful portrayal of beauty, showcasing the intricate movements and vibrant colors associated with this traditional folk dance. The performance captured the essence of Sri Lankan culture and added a unique touch to the cultural showcase.

Rooted, a South Asian urban fusion dance team, showcased their innovative choreography blending traditional and modern dance elements. Their performance was a seamless fusion of diverse dance styles, reflecting the evolving nature of South Asian dance forms in a contemporary context. 

Titan Bhangra brought the vibrant energy of Punjab to the stage with their energetic act. Their high-energy movements and rhythmic beats had the audience cheering and dancing along with infectious joy.

Aag and Afsana, two premier dance teams at UCR, brought their unique styles to the stage at the SAF Culture Show. Aag dazzled with their competitive Bollywood fusion dance and flaunted dynamic choreography. Meanwhile, Afsana captivated the audience with their storytelling through coed Bollywood fusion dance, displaying precision and synchronization in every movement. Both teams left a lasting impression, demonstrating the diversity and talent within the South Asian dance community at UCR.

Abhinaya, the classical dance group at UCR, presented a captivating blend of South and North Indian classical dance forms. Their bharatanatyam performance showcased expressive synchronization, sharp movements and expressions, exemplifying the cultural richness of South India. Meanwhile, their kathak presentation mesmerized the audience with rhythmic patterns, dynamic footwork and the storytelling traditions of North India. Abhinaya’s dual performance highlighted the diversity and artistic depth of Indian classical dance, adding a traditional yet dynamic flair to the cultural showcase.

Each performance at the SAF Culture Show was not only a display of technical skill but also a celebration of the diverse cultural tapestry and artistic talent within the South Asian community at UCR. A dedicated and passionate team worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the SAF Culture Show to life. As the event approached, rehearsals intensified, evolving from a few times a week to daily sessions lasting multiple hours. The effort put in was described as a “labor of love,” reflecting the dedication and commitment that went into crafting the show, referred to as a mix of the culture show board’s “blood, sweat and tears.”

The team’s unwavering dedication and passion were visible, reflecting their commitment to cultivating an inclusive community at UCR. By using cultural celebration as a focal point of their production, they sought to foster unity among diverse audiences. 

While their story didn’t end in a traditional romantic manner, it acted as a vessel for delving into the diverse experiences and traditions within South Asian cultures. Zain and Priya’s narrative, although bittersweet, embodied authenticity and depth, furthering the team’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity through the power of artistic expression.

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