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SLU’s Omkara competes in national Indian classical dance championship in San Diego

SLU+Omkara+onstage+at+the+Origins+Championship+at+UCSD.
Courtesy of Omkara
SLU Omkara onstage at the Origins Championship at UCSD.

As students were beginning to return to campus, a group of Saint Louis University student dancers were preparing for their biggest event yet. On Jan. 14, Omkara, SLU’s classical Indian dance team, traveled to San Diego to compete in the Origins Dance Championship.  

Since the team’s founding eight years ago, this was Omkara’s first time competing on a national stage. 

Omkara’s competition combines a variety of different Indian classical dance styles into a single performance. 

For their competition in California, captains Kavya Harish Saachi Kumar and Jessica Michael said they wanted to put an impactful story into their dance. 

“We always try to convey a theme or some sort of message,” Michael said. 

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Their recent performance told the story of Begum Hazrat Mahal, one of India’s earliest freedom fighters, who led a rebellion against the British East India Company in the mid 1800s.  

“In our retelling, a girl visits her grave, and Begum comes alive and shows [the girl] her stories… and passes on her love for dance,” said Kumar, who added that she wanted to honor this lesser-known hero of India. 

The team uses styles like Bharatanatyam and Kathak, with more semi-classical steps and choreography. 

Michael said that Omkara’s alumni have been crucial to the team’s success.

“Coming back and giving us tips, their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed,” Michael said.

 Learning from previous leaders, the captains decided to start choreographing and planning much earlier starting in May 2023. 

The group also had to balance performing at events at SLU and in the St. Louis area while preparing their submission for the Origins Championship last semester, but group members said they were happy to put in the work. 

“I feel like everyone was really flexible about coming back early and practicing… I think it was a good learning experience for everyone,” said freshman Preeyom Govind, who joined Omkara in August of 2023.  

Many Omkara members, like Govind and sophomore Lalitha Nair, are former dancers who joined the team to continue performing in college. 

“I’ve been dancing since I was six, and I knew that I wanted to dance in college… Omkara was so welcoming and so supportive,” Nair said.

Harish also spoke on the uniqueness of Omkara. 

“In college, there’s always the question of how to continue classical dance… Omkara acts as a shared experience for all of us who come from that same background,” Harish said. 

While they did not place at the Origins Dance Championship, they have been invited to the next Origins competition. The team is now preparing to compete in North Carolina this February, where they hope to place and continue performing along the circuit. 

While the team said they focus mainly on dance and their competitions, they are more than just a dance team. 

“Our main mindset is that, yes, dance and practice are required, but rest and bonding outside of performance are just as important,” said Harish. 

For more information about joining or watching Omkara perform, check @omkaraslu on Instagram.

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    VamshiFeb 12, 2024 at 7:59 pm

    Well articulated Aditya

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