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By Robyn Burns

An exuberant chant emerges from the group of 34 students huddled on the second floor of the SCC: “Ryerson, Ryerson, Ryerson.”

Their arms are interlocked and the group is squished together, wildly jumping up and down in unison. If you didn’t know any better, you might think the group, called the South Asian Alliance (SAA), was a varsity sports team instead of a student association. Sure, the Ryerson group hosts pub nights and raises money much like any other association, but you’d be hard pressed to find others who practice dance moves in daily rehearsals.

All the sweat and fancy footwork are to prepare for the group’s upcoming dance competition at the annual South Asian Alliance Culture Show at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre on March 18, where more than 4,500 other South Asian student groups are prepared to battle it out on the dance floor. “When we represent Ryerson, we feel proud,” member Roma Dhunna says. Every year, the massive South Asian Culture show is organized by six postsecondary institutions.

Other universities take part in the competition, going head-to-head, fighting for the top spot. SAA Ryerson co-presidents Raj Vijeykumar and Ridhi Ghai made rehearsal space one of their top priorities this year. With less than two weeks left, the group is in high preparation gear, finding space anywhere it can, including crowded or forgotten hallways. Last week, intense practices were held everyday with an upcoming rehearsal expected to last until dawn.

“Ryerson has what it takes to make it to the top,” Ghai says. “Right now we need to focus on getting all of the dancers in sync (because everyone) has their own pace.” The show is a collective effort where all members volunteer their talents. Students Kavita Moorthy and Raz Soos have orchestrated the intricate costumes, props and backdrops. “Our production is an actual production,” co-choreographer and fourth-year journalism student Sheetal Khullar says.

“(We can’t have it) look like we’ve pulled things out of our closet and gone on stage.”

The SAA’s dance style is akin to modern Bollywood films, with nine set pieces that have been choreographed by Khullar and member Kamil Yar Khan, who have combined hip-hop dance with a modern Bollywood flare. While Ryerson has generously provided the group with funds, it has been less than helpful when it comes to booking space where the group could practice. At times, it wasn’t an usual sight to see dancers bumping to the beat outside of Jorgenson Hall’s Credit Union Lounge.

“Booking is strenuous and quite a process,” Khullar says, pointing out that RAC facilities are only open to those who own a membership. This year, the group continues to practice anywhere they can find the space, from the dusty floors of Jorgenson ?– where the custodial workers appreciated the group’s sock-clad performances since they swept up some of the dust — to the frequently trafficked halls of the SCC.

While this year’s group has managed to cope with the space problem, the dancers still anticipate more problems next year. At rehearsal, though, the group is just looking forward to arriving at the show with matching lime green T-shirts and their own spirit squad, just like the varsity teams they aspire to be.

SAA tickets are on sale at the Hub.

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