‘East Meets West’ showcases Indian dances

Students from Christ University in Bangalore, India and Baylor come together to perform a dance recital Friday at the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. William Barksdale | Multimedia Journalist

By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

American students dancing Bollywood-style and Indian students two-stepping is an exchange that happens quite rarely.

Friday night in Jones Theatre of the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, students from Christ University in Bangalore, India, joined Baylor Theatre students in the “East Meets West” dance recital.

Students and faculty of Christ University have spent the past three weeks at Baylor, and Baylor theater students got the chance to visit students at Christ University during summer 2017.

Christ University students arrived at Baylor just in time to see Pigskin, which members said was a unique experience for them. They also got to experience Baylor’s homecoming parade, which was another first for them. They went bowling, went to the movie theater and explored the American lifestyle that they had only seen in movies.

“It was amazing. It was so much fun; it was so surreal,” Christ University student Julianna James said. “We’ve grown up watching stuff like this on TV, it’s so extra but I don’t mind.”

Stan Denman, chairman of the department of theater arts, has been traveling to Christ University for about four years, but this is the first year he took Baylor students with him. The department plans for Baylor theater students to have the opportunity to travel to India every other year from now on, according to Lucas senior Christina Austin, one of the students who traveled to Bangalore this summer.

“For Indian dance, everything is about making it super spiritual and giving it all back to God, and I think that’s super super cool, how your art can also be a way you worship,” Austin said. “I also just love Bollywood because it’s so high energy and so intense in cardio.”

James said she’s been overwhelmed with how welcomed her group has felt since arriving in America a few weeks ago.

“I love how nice people are. It’s amazing,” James said. “We flew literally halfway across the world and everyone greets you. Everyone is so nice to you.”

American theater is more realistic than dancing and performing is in India, according to James and Austin. They explained that in India, everything tells a story. Their dance moves are choreographed down to their eye movements.

“I like how easy theater is here,” James said. “I don’t mean it like it’s not challenging, it’s very challenging, but it puts you at ease. It’s like how life is — it’s very realistic. Everything in India is very expressive, very out there, but here it’s very natural. There’s a lot more freedom here when it comes to being yourself onstage.”

James shared she invited everyone she met to come out to the show, from the guy who serves ice cream at Penland, to bookstore workers to the director of photography Robbie Rogers, who accompanied the Christ University group while they explored the Mayborn. The students were both excited about the nine dances that they performed on Friday night because they’ve been working on the show since the Christ University group arrived in America. The dances included classical Indian dances, Bollywood contemporary, American theater songs and dances and a little bit of Texas two-stepping.

Before the group returned to India on Saturday morning, James said she wasn’t ready to leave. Both groups celebrated their friendships in the Baylor Club after the show on Friday night and everyone wore saris (traditional Indian clothing) to celebrate the merging of the two cultures.