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A Mesmerizing Night of Hindi-Urdu/Asian Culture at NC State

With a room so packed that people were standing along the edges to watch the performances, students in the NC State Hindi-Urdu language and culture classes put on a mesmerizing event on the stage of Titmus Theatre with the direction and coordination of their professor, language/literature and culture expert Nilakshi Phukan. 

The students of Phukan’s class led the audience through the event as MCs and taught the audience about Premchand’s famous story Budhi Kaaki–leading everyone through the moral conundrums of the family and the life lessons the text reveals. The students led a very full crowd through a cultural game of trivia, presented green-screen-based short films they created and introduced the crowd to the plethora of performers who were being featured. It was evident through their presentation that the class was not only interesting but fun; making the audience laugh with clips of their bloopers and reactions to the trivia answers.

One of the performances was a reenactment of a poem by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, a famous Hindi writer and national poet which was accompanied by a particularly striking character who acted soundlessly as the poem was recited. Her expressions, movements and intricate dress brought the words he spoke to life. As someone new to these worldly performances, I found this to be one of the most captivating, because although I couldn’t understand the language I understood the emotions of the character. The woman in the ornate outfit was a powerful and expressive actress, and she brought her passion to the stage.

Throughout the night, the dancers and actors all wore beautiful garments–with ornate details, shining jewelry, and rows of flowers–all with vivid colors, patterns, and embroidery. I had no idea it was going to be such a breathtaking affair and I was glad that I happened to bring my camera with me to capture all the performers. The Shruti Kuchipudi Dance Academy, Taal Harmony School of Dance, and the Green Level High School Dance group put on both Classical dances and Bollywood dances–there was such a wide variety of cultural elements that not a moment of the two-hour event was dull.

During the show, there were Korean drummers, who surprised the audience with their very young drummer and dancing, and a solo Korean dancer whose gorgeous skirt spun as she danced and drummed. There was also a Chinese dancer who performed a riveting solo dance called Blooming Rain. The magnificent lighting of the event spotlighted the event perfectly, and the music accompanying the dancers or emanating from the drum performers filled Titmus Theatre. It was at once both a curated and welcoming experience. Community elders rose from their seats to join the dancers and students on stage, putting on a choreographed dance in participation.

Phukan also showcased her skills as a yoga instructor, bringing a group of women onto the stage to lead them through the lyrical workout under the lights and accompanied by music. From the welcoming portion at the show opening, Phukan’s engagement with her students and her department is evident to all. Nilakshi Phukan, Sujata Mody, and Jim Michnowicz (head of the Department of World Languages and Cultures) presented a truly mesmerizing event; offering such a range of cultural experiences that the night even ended with a free authentic vegetarian meal offered to all attendees. The line stretched out the door!

North Carolina State University’s newly renamed Department of World Languages and Cultures put on a wonderful production, and after such a successful and eclectic set of performances, it makes me wonder what they’re going to do next!