COLUMBIA — As choreographer for an MU student group performing at India Nite on Saturday, Prerana Patel's days and evenings have been filled with selecting music and creating and teaching intricate dance movements. Patel is also responsible for coordinating the 16 dancers' tight schedules so that somehow they can practice for as many as 15 hours a week to prepare for the show.
Patel and her friends are calling their performance this year "Mizzou Masti" or, roughly, awesome or amazing Mizzou. They dance to embrace Indian culture, to feel the adrenaline rush as they step onstage and to preserve friendships within Columbia's Indian community. They and other students groups belonging to the Cultural Association of India in Columbia participate each year in India Nite, which began in 1992. Some of the groups belong to MU's South Asian Students Association.
What: India Nite, an evening of Indian dance and music performed by Columbia groups
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jesse Auditorium
"We get together as college students to share the Indian culture," Patel, 21, said of Mizzou Masti. "There are those who are very traditional and those who know less about the Indian culture, but we all work together."
Hitesh Patel, 22, who is no relation to Prerana Patel, is dancing with the Mizzou Masti group for the first time. He enjoys the time-consuming preparation. "It gives all of us an excuse to get together and hang out," he said.
It seems, however, that high expectations stemming from last year's performance also make the demanding practices fairly obligatory. For MU senior Sabih Javed, who has danced at the past three India Nites, the group's lively 2007 performance of "Bhangra Bounce" will be difficult to top. Its elaborate, modern-inspired movement was tailored to a fresh sound: a musical fusion of traditional Indian Bhangra and mainstream hip-hop.
Prerana Patel said this year's music is drawn strictly from Bollywood, India's version of the Hollywood film industry. Aside from its high energy and entertainment value, this year's performance promises a creative history lesson as well.
"We begin with traditional Bollywood music and transition into modern," Patel said. "The choices in music represent how Bollywood music has changed over time."
Javed, 21, considers these students' performances to be some of the most vibrant and crowd-pleasing. He likes the cultural diversity of India Nite. In addition to its emphasis on Indian culture, Javed, whose parents came to the United States from Pakistan, said he thinks the event is about bringing different groups together.
"A lot of my culture from Pakistan is very similar to that of India, and our dancing is similar as well," Javed said.
Hitesh Patel said India Nite is significant to Columbia as an entire community because it provides a glimpse into Indian culture while also showcasing the city's overall diversity.
"The performances for India Nite fill Jesse every year, and there's great diversity among the people who attend," Prerana Patel said.
Although preparation for India Nite entails several weeks of grueling practice for a few minutes in the spotlight, Prerana Patel thinks the time and effort are worth the payoff.
"When you're onstage and the lights go out, it's so exciting," she said. "It makes all of the hard work worth it."