Since its founding in 2013, UCLA Taara has combined several forms of Indian classical dance like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, and Odissi to create award-winning routines. The group’s latest program is garnering attention for blending classical dance with social commentary on domestic violence and issues affecting South Asian women today.

The group’s new showcase “Utsav,” centers on the story of a woman in an abusive relationship. The choreography is set up to contrast the experiences of a woman in an unhealthy, violent relationship with a woman in a safe relationship with healthy communication. The performance last week at UCLA featured performances from several other local dance teams and raised money for SAHARA, a California nonprofit that provides social services for the South Asian community.

According to the Daily Bruin, members of UCLA Taara were inspired to create the choreography for “Utsav” after one of their former members based her senior thesis on research she did at a local domestic violence shelter. “We wanted to make sure that we were very correct in the way that we portrayed (domestic abuse). While we are giving a positive final message in it, we also want to be portraying that it’s difficult and it doesn’t always end perfectly,” Psychology major and Taara member Devika Chandramohan told the Daily Bruin.

“It’s important to show that these arts don’t just belong to the past, (but that) they have relevance in the present as well,” UCLA Taara’s co-captain Rupini Kamat told The Daily Bruin. The team first debuted a version of “Utsav” during the competition season this academic year and last week the group performed the program at UCLA with a smaller group of dancers as part of a showcase featuring other dance teams from across Southern California.

Members of UCLA Taara added that they hope that they can eventually make the “Utsav” showcase into a yearly competition.

Be sure to also check out our conversation with theater artist Ankita Kumar-Ratta and her one-woman show “Undercover Indian.”

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