Last weekend I spent some time with the members of PennDhamaka, a South Asian dance group at the University of Pennsylvania. They were preparing for the Best of the Best Indian dance competition in Chicago this past Saturday, and Weekend America wanted to profile one of the teams that would be competing.
I’m pretty happy with the way the story turned out. We made far more use of ambient sound than I usually do in radio stories. I recorded about an hour and a half of the group’s practice one Saturday, and then went back to conduct interviews with two of the members the next day. We used at least as much sound from the practice as the interviews.
Although the practice is pretty repetitive tape (lots of 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 sound), it really helped to tell the story. Because the thing is, these 12 guys were practicing their butts off. The day I met up with them, they had been rehearsing from 10 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon. At 6:00 they had a performance. On weekdays, they often spend 4 or 5 hours practicing.
What makes it worth it isn’t just the chance to be on stage and impress your friends. 11 of the 12 members of the team are first or second generation Americans from South Asian families, and dancing is something they can do that keeps them in touch with their cultural roots. Even when they’re throwing American cultural references and Western hip-hop music into their routines.
It looks like the PennDhamaka lost out to the UCLA team at the competition, but at least one commentator thinks they were robbed.