If officer and two year member Kamya Krishnan had to describe her experience in MV Raas in one word, she would choose special.
“I used to be part of a traditional dance team…” Krishnan said. “But you don't get that special feeling being on a traditional team you get being on a team you can run by yourself and with friends and that you can call your own.”
Part of the reason Krishnan’s experience is so special is because Krishnan isn’t a typical MVHS student — rather, she attends middle college at De Anza full-time. Because of this, Raas is a way for Krishnan to keep in touch with friends at MVHS who she usually would not interact with.
Over the years, Krishnan has come to realize that the opportunity to get ready with her team and perform for others is truly a unique and fun experience. Citing her previous experience at MVHS, Krishnan also acknowledges that Raas is an outlet of relief, especially at MVHS, where the students largely focus on academics. According to Krishnan, because certain students over-emphasize academics, acquiring a team experience and being able to meet performers from different schools is a priceless experience that can impact students greatly.
“It's always about how can you get an A in this class, how can you ace this AP test,” Krishnan says, “But being on a dance team, we as students are running this; there's no teachers involved other than our advisers. We compose the music, we choreograph and we do everything. It's so beautiful to see that people our age are able to make something so incredible…. it inspires you to be really creative and fulfill passions other than just your academics.”
One specific anecdote where Krishnan felt this sense of elation was at Dil Se, the first auditioned show of the season. Raas had been working on their performance for months — being able to showcase their hard work in front of friends stuck out as an especially happy moment.
“In my mind … I'm like damn, this is the last time I'm doing this,” Krishnan said. “Dil Se was the first last thing, last first show. So much cheeziness in my mind; it was so much to handle and think about.”
On the downside, Krishnan admits that not every memory has been all positive. Sometimes, the team has trouble functioning as a unit and struggles with productivity at practices. Because of this, her advice to the underclass Raas members is to be mindful of letting external issues affect Raas.
“When you're at practice, it's supposed to be focused on learning the dance and trying to put the dance together and cooperate,” Krishnan said. “But if your personal issues with people or your personal life gets involved, it can make [practices] really unproductive. So that’s my biggest takeaway — do not cross the professional and the personal relationships you have.”
If senior and second year member Palak Jain had to describe experience in MV Raas in one word, she would choose bonding.
“As soon as you put 16 girls together on a dance team, and you say, 'learn these spots, get right next to each other,' and spend 12 hours a day together, you become really close — they become some of your best friends,” Jain said. “I'd really have to call it a bonding experience.”
Jain was an alternate (only performed in a few shows) last year and became a full-time member this year. Like many of the seniors on the team, she attributes part of her experience to the number of people she met and developed friendships with. She has also garnered unforgettable memories with the Raas team — one of her favorite memories with the team are Raas sleepovers.
“Once we played innuendo bingo the one where you put water in your mouth, and then you have to play all the funny lines on someone's phone, and then you have to try to not spit the water out,” Jain said. “That was pretty fun, because we all got drenched in each other's spit.”
Furthermore, Palak echoes Krishnan’s sentiment that communication was a problem for the team, but the effort from the captains kept the team together. According to Jain, the team made a conscious effort to put their complications aside for performances, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
“Especially for Spotlite, we all decided, this is our last show for the seniors … it's like your senior night,” Jain said. “For us, it was a really big thing. For the rest of the team, it was ‘let's put everything to the side, and let's come together and make sure this last experience that we have together at MVHS, at our home stage is a pretty spectacular one.’”
At Spotlite, the seniors on all three Indian dance teams, Raas, Andaaz and Bhangraa, dubbed Adhangraas, joined together for a cross-over senior dance. For Jain, this is just one example of the social opportunities Raas provides — without Raas, she never would have been close to many of the people she had met.
Her advice to the incoming Raas members is to take full advantage of the memories and network as much as possible.
“Really, just make the most of the time you have with the people you have,” Jain said. “Especially senior year … I've been at the school for four years, I'm moving onto college and 90% of the people in this school I'm never going to see again in my life. I'm probably never going to talk to them again. So don't take those moments for granted, and make the most of it while you can.”
If senior and second year member Karishma Chari had to describe MV Raas in one word, she would choose roller coaster.
“There are definitely a lot of times I'd be like, 'Ugh Raas practice I don't want to go,'” Chari said. “It's just it's like a temporary feeling. A lot of times all the other team members are in the same boat, even though sometimes you don't want to go to practice. You guys all are their talking to each other, keeping each other up.”
With no prior experience of being apart of a formal dance team, and with the majority of the Raas team having danced traditionally for their whole lives, Chari was intimidated. Nonetheless, she didn’t let her apprehension prevent her from trying out and ultimately qualifying for the team.
As great as the experience was for Chari, she recalled how her Raas career did not start on the greatest note last year during one of the first practices. Chari was in the rally court for Raas practice when she saw her friend across the rally court. As she called out a greeting, her foot gave away.
“We weren't even practicing at the moment,” Chari said. “But I fell down the stairs. My ankle was so sprained, and so swollen, for a week after the fact, random people would walk up to me like, 'hey are you okay?' It was the dumbest way to start off the year, because then I couldn't even dance for two months.”
Even though things didn't start the best for Chari, but she urges everyone who is considering to try out for Raas to do so with no hesitation. One of her favorite memories she made was at one of the Raas sleepovers.
“There was this whole situation going on with another girls parents, but then after we ended up getting Taco Bell,” Chari said. “We just left and ending up getting Taco Bell, which was super fun, because I really didn't know what it was like to hang out with them outside of Raas practice.”
This being her last year on the team, Chari encourages all of her non-graduating Raas teammates to not focus on the details of high school so much, and to have fun.
“I could not tell you what my pig practical score was, and I do not care at all about what happened in Ms. Onodera's classroom sophomore year. Whatever happens, it happens. You can always bounce back from it.”
If senior and third year member Lavanya Muthusamy had to describe her experience in MV Raas in one word, she would choose family.
“I’ve just gotten to know them so well,” Muthusamy says. “Every year people leave and people come in. When people graduate it's really sad but when people come in it's like 'oh wow now I have these new friends and I get to take care of the kids.’ I see all the younger people as my children because I take care of them. I just really love being on this team.”
Despite her overall positive experience, Muthusamy has also experienced many setbacks when it comes to Raas’s productivity and showcases.
“There was one particularly bad performance my first year at Homestead, where we just did not have enough energy,” Muthusamy says. “Coming out of that everyone was dead tired, and people were dizzy — it was just really bad. But I feel like we learned a lot from that in the coming years.”
Many of the memories that stick out to Muthusamy are the silly ones, like the time Raas tried to fit way more than the legal amount of passengers into one car, squishing several bodies and backpacks in the crevices of the car.
Because Muthusamy’s grades has sometimes suffered because of her commitment to Raas, her parents often tried to convince her to quit. But nostalgic flashbacks like the one with the car kept Muthusamy coming back. In fact, Raas has impacted Muthusamy to a point where she wants to tryout for a Raas team in college.
“I'm going somewhere out of state where there may not be a lot of Indian people,” Muthusamy says, “I enjoy being with people of shared culture. So I feel like doing Raas in high school prepares for me maybe trying out in college, which would help me integrate into an Indian community there.”
Over the years, Muthusamy grew into her experience with dance by realizing that she made the most out of her high school experience when she focused on having fun rather than putting pressure on herself to perform. If there’s anything she could leave the Raas team with, it would a reminder of such.
“Just high knees and have fun,” Muthusamy said. “Honestly, if you think of it as a commitment or [an obligation], it's not gonna be fun. So just try to have fun when you are dancing.”
If senior and first year member Eesha Moona had to describe her experience in MV Raas in one word, she would choose sisterhood.
“I've always been on co-ed dance team,” Moona said. “So I was really scared to be on a one gender dance team, thinking will we all click?’ … But then straight up from the first practice it was so much fun. We all just bonded over everything that's happening in school and everything that's happening in our lives. I generally feel like when I see them around campus they're like my sisters around campus.”
Moona details that she hasn’t been able to find this feeling of sisterhood on any other dance team she’s been on. Her freshman and sophomore year, Moona was on Raas’ sister team Andaaz.
Her junior year, Moona wasn’t on a team because she wanted to focus on school. Not being on a team was difficult for Moona because dance had always been a stress reliever for her. Without dance in her life, Moona didn’t have the outlet that she needed.
Then, as a senior, Moona decided to give Raas a shot because she wanted to reach out of her comfort zone and try a different dance form. She fell in love with the dynamic, the sisterhood and the euphoria that Raas supplied — Raas in turn helped her go through her senior year.
“Being able to come to a place where we had a group of girls who wouldn't talk about colleges unless you wanted to talk about them [was so helpful],” Moona said. They just wanted to talk about dance … Taking all my energy and stress and putting it into the dance form that is Raas … just made me feel so much better throughout the year.”
One of the more unique aspects of Raas is how much the team bonds. According to Moona, in Bollywood dance, everyone can stand out on their own during dances. However, in Raas, everyone ”looks the same” on stage, and therefore must be on the same page to make the formations work.
In fact, Raas has influenced Moona to such an extent that she is now considering joining a Raas team in college, even though Moona was set on joining a Bollywood team ever since she was a child. Still, similar to Krishnan, Moona agrees that not all moments on Raas were smooth as expected.
“Girls have a tendency to build up all this emotion,” Moona said. “[Girls] don't really tell each other or they'll tell other people [but] not confront each other. I think we've had some times as a team where we were all stressed out together and no one was talking to each other … I think communication was something we all learned throughout the entire year.”
Despite these difficulties, Moona says the captains worked hard to get everyone talking and solving issues, which she really appreciates. Because of their efforts, the team still saw success this year. In fact, at the auditions for the hardest show of the year, Dil Se, Raas’ audition went so well that the judge stated it was the best audition he had watched. This is Moona’s favorite memory with Raas because it felt like they got the reward for months of hard work.
Moona claims that to her, dance is a form of meditation that will forever be valuable in her life. If she could tell incoming Raas members some advice, it would be that even though Raas can be draining, especially the first couple practices, sticking to it is important.
“I was like, ‘I cant get my legs to go with my hands’ and this has never happened to me before because dance usually comes naturally to me,’” Moona said. “But people there are so nice and people there are so supportive. [My team is] honestly the reason I am who I am right now and am happy with my life. Definitely do it. It’s totally worth it.”