South Asian dance group lets students express themselves

FIDAA hosts weekly dance workshops that culminate in a “cipher,” an improvisatory dance circle showcasing various styles and genres. (Photo courtesy of FIDAA)

The Hindi word “Aarambh” can be translated to English as “start or beginning.” It is no surprise that Aarambh is the title chosen for FIDAA and USC’s first-ever dance convention. 

FIDAA is the most recent addition to USC’s diverse range of dance organizations. The club is founded and directed by junior Jainil Mehta. Mehta, who is majoring in dance, has an extensive background in Indian folk, Indian classical, ballet and hip-hop and has even choreographed three dance productions in Mumbai. Mehta’s passion and expertise is undeniable. 

With the creation of FIDAA, he hopes to extend this same excitement to the USC community.

“FIDAA’s main purpose is to promote the arts and promote dance in the community — and it’s not just particularly to the South Asian community, but to the [USC] community in general,” Mehta said. “We aim to make dance for fun instead of making it competitive.” 

The group’s determination to reach this goal is clearly seen in the development of Aarambh. Though organizing a convention is a huge task for a new club, Mehta said that they would rather “start with a bang instead of … baby steps.”

The convention will be held from Oct. 11 to 13 and hopes to introduce the community to a variety of global dance styles such as belly dancing, kathak, Indian Folk and flamenco.

“We are actually getting a lot of choreographers recognized — [including] professional choreographers — from the Los Angeles community as well as New York and Mumbai … and they are going to be teaching at the convention to people who are passionate about dance and want to learn something new,” Mehta said.

Along with its new convention, the group hosts dance workshops at Mudd Hall Monday nights. Each night culminates with a free-for-all cipher — a circle of improvisatory dance where everyone gets to dance to whatever they want, however they want.

Ultimately, the group and its workshops are a space for expression for any student regardless of background.

“[These workshops are for] people who are kind of intimidated to join a team or not really comfortable in putting a bunch of commitment,” said Sweta Bhagavatula, the associate director of FIDAA. “I think it would be better to have a low-commitment club and something they can have as a stressbuster.”

Bhagavatula explains that the challenge for the group, as with any newly-established club, is spreading awareness of the organization out to the general public. Yet, the club is swiftly combating this issue by collaborating with Southern California Indo-Americans, an on-campus organization that seeks to support South Asian culture — but the group isn’t solely for the South Asian community.

“By collaborating with SCIA, [FIDAA has] reached our mailing list, our Instagram and our Facebook followers,” said Kishan Patel, the co-president of SCIA.

As FIDAA continues to reach out to USC students, its motto of promoting “[dancing] for fun” for any student continues.