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Rice Riyaaz reflects on team bond, prepares for Dhamaka show

Photo courtesy Nayna Nambiar

By Shreya Challa     11/29/22 11:27pm

Each week, the members of Rice Riyaaz spend hours rehearsing and perfecting their every dance move. Riyaaz is Rice’s premier co-ed Bollywood fusion dance team that competes in national circuits. Their hard work will culminate in their performance at Dhamaka, a showcase organized by the Rice South Asian Society, at the Grand Hall on Dec. 4 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Milan George, Riyaaz’s logistics captain,  joined Riyaaz as a freshman. George said that despite not having much professional dance experience before coming to Rice, performing with Riyaaz has been  unforgettable. 

“One thing that was so appealing for me when I heard about Riyaaz was the fact that dancing experience wasn’t required …  From traveling nationally to late night practices, Riyaaz helped make some of my most memorable memories my freshman year,” George, a Duncan College sophomore, said. “At the end of last year, I decided to join the executive board to help Riyaaz continue being a memorable experience.”

Eliza Jasani, one of Riyaaz’s dance captains, echoed George’s sentiments. Jasani has been passionate about dance since she was a child. She said that while Riyaaz was an opportunity for her to learn about Bollywood dance, her favorite part about Riyaaz is the bond that the team shares.

“We spend more than seven hours each week practicing with each other and working towards a common goal,” Jasani, a Duncan sophomore, said. “This, alongside many of our shared cultural identities, helps us form amazing lifelong friendships.”

In addition to their time practicing together, George said that they hold social events at least once a month. 

“Personally, I like to think of it as a family,” George said. “As a newbie, you’re put in ‘big-little’ groups. ‘Bigs’ are oldies [whom] newbies can turn to if they have any questions. It doesn’t have to be about Riyaaz. I remember turning to my ‘bigs’ multiple times last year. I’ve made countless friends and am continuing to learn how to lead a team.”

Jasani said that dancing helps her decompress and hang out with her friends after long days.

“When we take breaks during practice, members will be talking to each other about their days, cracking jokes or trying out new dance steps,” Jasani said. “It’s a really nice environment to be in.”

When they aren’t preparing for Dhamaka or organizing social events, Riyaaz is busy vying for their spot in dance competitions. This semester, the group focused on choreographing and practicing a three-minute set that they used to apply to competitions. 

“This year, we’re fortunate enough to have been accepted to eight [Desi Dance Network] competitions,” George said. “We’re so happy that our hard work paid off, and we can’t wait to show a piece of that hard work to our friends and family at Dhamaka.” 

Each grade has had the chance to choreograph their own pieces for the show, which George said will be bittersweet for new and old members alike. 

“It’s a proud moment when we see our newbies put something together all on their own,” George said. “It’s also a bittersweet feeling seeing our seniors practice for their last Dhamaka. We all just can’t wait to have fun on that stage.”

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