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Emory Indian dance team preps for nationals

Members of Emory SaRaas will compete in the national Raas All-Stars Competition March 30 in Dallas, Texas.

Members of Emory SaRaas—Emory's official Indian folk dance team—are gearing up for a trip to Dallas, Texas. The team has stomped their way to the top and will showcase their efforts in a national intercollegiate competition on March 30.  

In the Raas All-Stars Competition, Emory's team will compete against Alliance University, Boston University, Michigan State University, Saint Louis University, the University of Texas, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland, College Park.  

SaRaas performs the Garba and Raas dance styles that originated in Gujarat, a state in India. About half of the team's 21 members have ties to that region, explains team captain Amaad Rana.  

Rana, who said he hadn't danced before joining the team last year, became interested in SaRaas after their performance in Emory's Best-in-Show showcase.  

The idea of joining a competitive dance team like SaRaas was "a little far-fetched," recalled Rana, "but once I got on the stage for the first time, I fell in love with it."  

Rana's passion for dance and the team's "family-like environment" led him to pursue the role of team captain this year.  

On a typical week, the SaRaas team practices three times a week in either the Woodruff P.E. Center or the Student Activity & Academic Center. Rana says that the week before the Dallas competition, the team anticipates practicing two or three hours a day.  

"We learn to manage our time very well," explains Rana, an Emory College senior. "Everyone is willing to help each other out."  

Rise to the top  

A total of 35 collegiate teams competed in 11 competitions this year. Teams that placed at these competitions earn points, which are accumulated before the seven top teams travel to Dallas.  

Emory's team performed particularly well this year and placed at three of the four competitions attended, according to Sumaali Chheda, publicity chair and College freshman.  

According to Chheda, no one in the circuit would have guessed that Emory's team would even place while at their first competition in Washington, let alone finish second.  

"Suddenly, we were on everyone's radar."  

After every competition, teams receive their point totals as well as critiques of their performance by the judges.  

In preparation for the final competition in Dallas, Emory SaRaas will study the critiques given by judges at their last performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to make "our performance the best yet," says Rana.  

Additionally, the team will also add a few surprises to their routine, according to Rana.  

SaRaas is representing Emory University as a whole at this competition, Rana says.  

"We are the first Emory Indian dance team to reach the end-of-the-season national competition for our particular dance style, and people all over the country and all over the world definitely are taking notice."  

The team members encourage the Emory community to follow their progress with updates via Facebook.

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