by Parini Shah
Photography by Lauren Fogelstrom
Every Tuesday and Thursday from 9-11 p.m., future engineers, doctors, PR agents and businesswomen enter the quiet space of the SAO gym and turn it into an energetic and vibrant dance floor as their fluid and graceful movements bleed with passion and emotion.
Chankaar, the delicate sound of a woman’s anklet, has also found fame as Boston University’s award winning all-girl Indian Fusion dance team. Founded 11 years ago, Chankaar has paved the way for students all over to celebrate Indian culture through dance, find a release from the stress of academia and a home away from home.
One of Chankaar’s most attractive qualities is how welcoming and loving they are to everyone, on and off the team. “I chose Chankaar because of the welcoming feeling I got during tryouts,” said Vyshnavi Parthipan (Questrom ’20), a newbie on Chankaar. “Most of us auditioning were quite nervous but the girls on the team made us feel at ease.”
However, as fun-loving and adorable as Chanks can be, they know when to get down to business. Given their current rank of 52nd among Indian dance teams all over the United States, one can only assume that the audition process is a herculean task to say the least.
In order to be a part of the coveted Chankaar, an individual has to show potential in dance styles ranging from hip-hop, Bollywood, bhangra, contemporary and classical dance forms such as Kathak and Bharatnatyam.
“I still remember getting my acceptance letter,” said Varnica Bajaj (ENG ’19). “It was a mixture of excitement, accomplishment and pure joy!”
This year, Chankaar competed in front of the home crowd at the South Asian Showdown in Boston, and placed third at Jersey Jalwa, an intercollegiate fusion dance competition hosted by The College of New Jersey.
When asked about the challenges of coordinating a team so big, Chankaar’s captain expressed equal parts thrill and nervousness.
“The challenge that comes with being captain is what keeps me going—coming up with new choreography and ideas to put out on stage with my team and using songs and genres of music that we all like dancing to,” said Vithika Nagdaune (ENG ’18).
Being on a team as competitive and well-regarded as Chankaar, dedication and commitment is a must-have. On average, the team practices for about 9 hours on non-performance weeks, proving to be a massive time commitment. The dancers have to show immense time management skills because they have to balance rigorous academic coursework with the demands of practice.
“Balancing the pre-med life with Chankaar has definitely served as a challenge,” said Reena Chabria (Sargent ’19). “My freshman year, it was really hard to manage school and dance at the same time especially during competition season. However, it ended up making me a better student because I was forced to learn time management and when I got even busier this year with my other extracurriculars, I was able to balance all of it easily.”
Chankaar has not only given the girls an excellent stage to show off their bursting potential in the field of dance, but also fosters a sense of community, culture and belonging. It is a home where a hip-hop enthusiast can meet a classical dancer or where a fitness fanatic can find friendship in a poetry lover. Truly, their teamwork makes their dream work.