This is the second installment of Mustang News’ “Let’s Go Clubbing” series exploring various Cal Poly clubs.
It was 9 p.m. on a Monday night and the sounds of vibrant Indian music echoed through the Poly Canyon Village parking structure.
A series of elegant moves ensued as a handful of girls swayed and turned in time to the music among the parked cars beneath cement ceilings.
Journalism junior and co-captain of Cal Poly Kahanee (the university’s Bollywood dance team) Arinee Rahman stood before the group of girls, counting steps and assisting in choreography.
“Bollywood is such a mesmerizing type of dance,” Rahman said. “It’s a part of our culture and a part of us.”
Cal Poly Kahanee is an official club at Cal Poly through the Indian Student Association (ISA), Rahman said.
“We wanted to start this team because there hasn’t been one before and the Indian Student Association itself is getting bigger and bigger,” Rahman said. “This is the perfect time to do it.”
Three years ago, Rahman and her co-captain, computer science junior Shefali Saboo, met at an ISA meeting, Saboo said. They both shared the same passion for Bollywood dance and decided to start the club.
“We bonded over our passion for dance and sharing our art form,” Saboo said. “So we decided to start our own dance team.”
Though relatively new to Cal Poly, Bollywood dance is a popular art form at numerous other schools.
“It’s a huge big deal at Berkeley, Davis and Santa Barbara,” Rahman said. “Cal Poly Kahanee is the first time Cal Poly has had a Bollywood dance team.”
Cal Poly Kahanee is a co-ed team, but currently does not have enough men for their routines. For now, the team consists of all women.
However, Rahman encourages anyone who wants to learn about Kahanee to come and try out.
“Anyone can join,” Rahman said. “It’s not just South Asian people; we welcome everyone.”
“Kahanee” holds a special meaning to the Bollywood dance team and their culture.
“Kahanee means ‘story,’” Saboo said. “It is the story of where we come from and our culture.”
Bollywood dancing is more than just the dance, according to Saboo.
“With Bollywood dancing there are a lot of different factors other than dancing,” Saboo said. “There’s expression and singing to the music while the dancing is happening and there’s the added emotion of the music.”
Factors such as these are what help Cal Poly Kahanee tell a story through their dancing.
“There’s always a hidden meaning behind the music,” Saboo said. “We tell a story and dance at the same time.”
In expanding cultural diversity and awareness, Cal Poly Kahanee has also participated in a number of showcases on campus for ISA. The club will be performing Saturday, Nov. 7, for the Diwali Banquet — a celebration of Indian culture featuring food, music and dance, according to the banquet’s Facebook page.
Rahman said that Cal Poly Kahanee is extremely important to the expansion of cultural diversity on campus.
“It’s important, especially now at Cal Poly, because the campus is getting more and more diverse,” Rahman said. “And for us to be able to spread that culture to others on campus is mostly why we started this.”
Many Kahanee members have been dancing for years. Biological sciences sophomore and Cal Poly Kahanee member Raadhika Shah recalled her first encounter with Bollywood dancing.
“I think my mom forced me to join a Bollywood dance team because it was a big part of our culture,” Shah said. “I didn’t know if I would be any good at dancing since I was kind of pushed into, but I came to love it.”
Rahman said it started out as a hobby.
“It’s what I’ve always loved to do since I was 5 years old,” Rahman said.
For Saboo, Bollywood dance has always been a way to unwind.
“I fell in love with the ability to de-stress and let everything go while I dance,” Saboo said.
In addition to being an important factor in the lives and culture of the women who are a part of Cal Poly Kahanee, Shah explained why students should care about this dance team.
“It’s important in promoting cultural diversity and awareness, as well as dance and art,” Shah said. “Especially at a polytechnic university.”
Cal Poly Kahanee hopes to participate in national competitions in the future such as Bollywood America and Bollywood Berkeley, Rahman said.
With those goals in mind, Cal Poly Kahanee also looks to maintain what is important to their culture.
“Cal Poly has a very small amount of Indian students,” Saboo said, “so having a solid group of people who share the same culture and background and passion is nice.”
Sharing this passion for Bollywood dance with others at Cal Poly is key in keeping their culture alive on campus.
“We get to be a part of something so much bigger than us,” Shah said.