Onto the fourth collegiate dance team series, a dance team only about a year old, but with very dedicated dancers who call the stage their second home. East Carolina University’s (ECU) first ever Dandiya Raas team, Pirate Raas!
The team has recently been formed this past October 2014 and has immensely grown in this one year time. Co-captain of the dance team, Mona Amin wanted to form a Raas team when she came to ECU and reached out to a few South Asians at the school to hold try-outs. They did not expect anyone to show up, but instead a lot came out and it turned out to be majority were girls. They then realized they needed to bring on a guy or two for competitions and performances. The team recruited one male dancer, Rushan Kharwa and now the team has successfully come together as ECU Pirate Raas!
When the team was recruiting for the first time, they took pretty much everyone who auditioned. They were not just looking for those who are experienced, but the drive and willingness to learn. And they could figure that out after the first two practices that this team had that drive in them. Not everyone on the team is professionally trained though, in fact most have learnt the dance style throughout the first semester of practices.
In the first year, the team has already performed on various stages. From an elementary school in Greenville, North Carolina to Bhangra Sutra, East Coast Dhamaka and they were even invited to perform in Vegas at Vegas All Stars. Thus far they have won at ECU’s Pirate Got Talent and this is just the beginning of many more wins ahead for the team.
Check out their performance at East Coast Dhamaka at George Mason University – April 4, 2015!
During the first set of competitions they did attend, the team faced a few obstacles. One is having a single male dancer on the team vs. competing against teams that have eight or more guys on the team. Another hindrance they face is that judges at competitions do not care how new or old you are, they just want to see a good quality performance, so the teams goal as of now is to have experience and not worry about placing.
Pirate Raas has undergone a lot of ‘first time’ moments in the first year. For some it was simply performing on a stage for the first time and for some it was doing Raas the first time. This coming semester though they plan to set realistic goals for the team and hope to achieve them too.
The team on average spends six hours a week for practices and two to three hours more when preparing for competitions. The captains of the team come up with the choreography before hand and then execute it to the team at practices. At competitions, there are some requirements in the performances, such as having a Bhangra or Bollywood portion in the choreography. Pirate Raas has managed to infuse these styles in their previous performances and they have visually pulled it off well. In addition to choreography, the music last year was mixed by KR Entertainment and the story of the choreography came as the music was made. This coming semester though, they will strategically plan out the theme of their performance and choose music accordingly.
Pirate Raas strongly believes in keeping their performances traditional and purely Raas only.
Co-captain of the team, Jayati Vyas expressed the teams motto,
There’s a reason people want to work towards the team; Indian American students in America are trying to keep our culture alive, and we are keeping up with our traditions plus keeping up with our dance-form which is important to our culture. Captains learn leadership, students learn how to be professional and how to collaborate with different types of people. This is a combination of what we love and what is important to us!
The team also revealed some inside-secrets to me! Before they go out to perform or sometimes before practice, they have a ‘plank-off!’ Each member of the team planks together and sees who can go the longest!
ECU Pirate Raas has already made it far in the first year, and let’s wish them luck in the coming semester ahead! We can’t wait to see this team grow and make it to the top.
Don’t forget to follow Pirate Raas on Facebook!
Help the team out this semester and donate so they can make it to more competitions this year!