Decorative wooden sticks called dandiyas in hand, Texas Raas takes audiences nationwide on a rhythmic journey of folk sounds and modern beats as they give a glimpse of traditional Indian dancing.
Founded in 2003, Texas Raas began as a small group of local dancers who put on performances in the area. Five years ago, the UT Austin team joined the national competition circuit. Since then, Texas Raas has gone on to win multiple awards competing with some of the best teams in the nation.
“We get to travel, we get to stay physically active and we get to meet a lot of people from around the country that share the same passion as us,” said Pooja Patel, a former performer and supply chain management junior.
But, more than performing, Patel said she loves this style of dance because of its deep relationship with Indian culture and Hindu religion.
“The history of the dance kind of started evolving around our god, Lord Krishna,” Pooja Patel said. “He would basically dance with these women called Gopi and kind of flirt with them and that is kind of how this whole Garba Raas thing started. They would dance in circles and that is kind our main form of dance that we do. A lot of it happens in circles, a lot of it happens with sticks, a lot of partner choreo. It is just very collaborative.”
Karan Patel, an electrical engineering junior and current performer, said he was first exposed to the Garba Raas style of dancing at cultural events since childhood but only recently began
“Before joining Raas I never had danced,” Karan Patel said. “It kind of surprised me how much I love it now and how invested I am in it now. I don’t know what I would be doing in college right now if I wasn’t in Raas.”
Karan Patel said his favorite aspect of being on the team is the camaraderie they build during weekend competition trips. He said they have previously competed in locations like Miami, Baltimore and New Jersey as well as in Dallas this past weekend.
“Those weekends are some of the best times of the semester,” Karan Patel said. “It is just hanging out with your best friends for the entire weekend. You get really close and it is really fun to explore whatever city you are in.”
One of the most significant competitions that they recently attended was the 2014-2015 national championship, where they placed first. Binita Patel, an economics and finance junior, and current performer, said it was an unbelievable moment for the team, one they hope to someday relive.
“It meant a lot, at the end like all of our hard work, tears and sweat, paid off in the end,” said Binita Patel.
In the end, Binita Patel said Texas Raas is unique because they don’t care as much about winning as they do about performing a dance that means so much to them with a team they love.
“I think that really sets us apart from other teams,” Binita Patel said. “They have a very we are here to win attitude and we are here to have fun and do our thing.”
For Binita Patel, Texas Raas is more than a competition dance team — it’s her family.
“I joined to make a group of friends and fit in somewhere,” Binita Patel said. “Honestly, (I) didn’t think that I was going to be on this team for three years, and it has actually given me a sense of family away from my home. I have grown a lot through this team. It is my stress reliever.”