Produced by the South Asia Association, Ghungroo is the largest student-run production at Harvard. Over 300 undergraduate students work together to direct, produce and perform a wide variety of dances, musical selections, dramatic pieces and poetry inspired by the traditions of South Asia.
This year’s production will celebrate 30 years of Ghungroo with an alumni reception on Saturday afternoon after the matinee show. There are four Ghungroo performances on February 22-24, 2018. Tickets are almost sold out, so grab your tickets while they last!
SAI discussed the upcoming Ghungroo production with Ayman Mohammad and Simi Shah, co-presidents of the South Asian Association at Harvard (SAA) and producers of the 30th Annual Ghungroo performance.
Can you tell me about Ghungroo?
Ayman: We are now in the 30th year of Ghungroo! In 1988, students organized the first Ghungroo show to raise funds after a cyclone devastated an area in Bangladesh. It has now evolved into an annual dance show that brings people together from South Asia and beyond.
Ghungroo is an all-inclusive performance that encompasses dances ranging from raas to bhangra, and new age dance forms. It brings both experienced and less experienced performers together into a large dance, whether or not they are part of the South Asian community. Ghungroo is open to everybody!
When did you first start participating?
Simi: We both started as freshmen representatives for the South Asian Association. We got involved because of the aura of hype around Ghungroo. My first year, I choreographed a dance, which Ayman was in. Ever since then, we have been participating in the event in one form or another. This year as co-presidents of SAA, we had the opportunity to co-produce the show.
Can you tell me about your experience producing the show?
Ayman: It has been a very rewarding experience. However, there is a lot of logistical coordination behind the scenes to make sure that the show runs smoothly!
Simi: The enthusiasm and dedication around the event is incredible. For example, if we need help painting a set, we can send a message and several people will show up to help. This speaks to how much Ghungroo means to people, both freshman who are just learning about Ghungroo for the first time and seniors who cannot believe this will be their final show.
This year has been particularly rewarding because we have been doing a lot of alumni outreach. We have connected with some of the founding members of Ghungroo who are coming back to see the show and how it has evolved. For the alumni reception, we collected alumni photos and memories and are hosting an alumni reception for them. We have about 60-70 alumni coming back for the show, with alumni from 1988 to 2017.
Can you tell me about the community that Ghungroo creates?
Simi: The unique thing about Ghungroo is that anyone can participate; we do not have auditions, participants fill out a form and producers place them in a dance. Ghungroo fosters community because people are either dancing with their friends or making new friends. For those who are not dancing, they are excited to go watch their friends perform.
Ayman: My freshman year, I had zero dance experience when I joined the show. However, you do not need to be a good dancer to participate. Ghungroo is more about being a part of a community and the energy the show creates.
Can you share a favorite memory you have from the last few years of Ghungroo?
Ayman: Last year, when I was performing in the raas dance, I was front row and center. There was a dance move in which we were banging dandiya sticks on the ground, then the air, and so on. I was so carried away in the dance that I kept hitting the dandiya sticks long after everyone else has stopped! It was obvious that I made a mistake, but it was also obvious that I was really into the dance! All the people in the front row started cheering for me, I even heard someone shout, “it is okay Ayman!” Even though I messed up, I felt like it added to the show. That performance happened to be the night they video-recorded the show, so it has become this iconic moment that will live on forever.
Simi: The past last two years I have served as a choreographer. Last year we had this new dance step called “Happy Feet.” We did not know if people would learn it in time because it was a hard move. To my surprise, to this day, people come up to me to say, “I’ve been practicing my “Happy Feet”! Look how good I have become!”
What can we expect from this year’s Ghungroo?
Ayman: In Ghungroo, a skit ties all the dance pieces together. In past years, we have tackled different issues such as mental health, family dynamics and the generational gap between students and their parents who are immigrants.
This year, since it is the 30th anniversary, the plot is about the creation of Ghungroo and what it means to be a part of the show, and how Ghungroo brings the whole community together. It is a meta show about the show. Alumni can connect with the show by seeing their own history with Ghungroo and current students can see how different it was to be a South Asian thirty years ago creating the first Ghungroo.
Simi: In today’s climate, it is particularly important for people to see how the South Asian community has come together over the last 30 years to build a lasting bond and strengthen the community through Ghungroo.
What does Ghungroo mean to you?
Ayman: Ghungroo means inclusion. Everyone is part of something bigger than themselves, no matter their cultural or dance background- everyone is welcome. That is why I have been doing it for the last three years.
Simi: To me, Ghungroo is about passion, diversity, and community. It is about seeing people from all corners of Harvard and beyond come together to create something that has become meaningful to such a large group of people.
To both of us, having worked our way up through the South Asian Association, starting as freshman representatives to today as co-presidents, Ghungroo represents a journey.
This year’s show dates are:
– Thursday, February 22 at 7 PM ($15 GA; $12 Student)
– Friday, February 23 at 7 PM ($21 GA; $15 Student)
– Saturday, February 24 at 12 PM ($15 GA; $12 Student) [no senior dance]
– Saturday, February 24 at 7 PM ($21 GA; $15 Student)
Buy your tickets from the Harvard Box Office.
LIMIT: 1 student price ticket per HUID. Tickets are SEF-eligible.
If you choose the Harvard Box Office Option, be sure to purchase a “GHUNGROO ALUMNI” ticket to receive the benefits of our alumni package. If you would like to pay via Venmo, please fill out our Alumni Ticketing form — contact firstname.lastname@example.org.