Dance dominates IAASA mela

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Of all the exciting wares on offer, the cultural segment at the Indian mela was simply fantastic

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The sight of Punjabi bhangra dancers and Gujarati garba dancers gyrating to the beats of a chenda, a traditional south Indian drum, could only be seen at the Indian Mela 2014 parade held at Elder Park in Adelaide on March 15.

A multicultural event organised annually by the Indian Australian Association of South Australia (IAASA), the event showcases the celebration of diverse Indian cultures along with flavours from different states. It includes a combination of classical and Bollywood dances, fashion, henna tattoos and a wide range of other activities. The mela has been a part of Indian community in South Australian for nearly 30 years now and includes something for everyone, from a jumping castle and pony rides for children, music and dance celebrations for youngistanis and a chance to interact and spend time together for families and seniors.

The 2014 mela began at noon with performances from children and some folk dances, but the official segment with the parade started at 6pm. Special guests from local government graced the occasion, such as Governor General Kevin Scarce; Grace Portolesi, Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Government of South Australia; and Lieutenant Governor General Hieu Van Le, Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission.

“For us, the mela is to showcase to the world, one of the most distinguishing characteristics of India and Indians – unity in diversity! Despite different cultures across different states, diverse food and flavours and diverse rituals, we are still one when it comes to promoting India”, said Mudra Shah, Cultural Coordinator, IAASA who also runs the Mudra Dance Academy in Adelaide.

“Preparations for the event itself and the cultural programs began months ago and would not have been possible without contribution of Dr Jagdish Saraf, all the committee members and volunteers of IAASA,” she added.

Dance was a big drawcard at the mela, with diverse repertoires performed by 280 performers including individuals, duos and some famous dance groups in Adelaide such as Mudra Dance Academy, Agni, Mayuri and let’s not forget Adelaide’s oldest Bollywood dance group, Fusion Beats, operated by Francesca, Mrs Australia Universe 2014. “I love watching groups growing with each mela and I still remember my first one…  Now I co-coordinate the cultural element of the show and love the feeling of being a part of this event that keeps the Indian culture alive for South Australians. It’s not just fun, but we can also display our talents,” explained Francesca.

The well-planned cultural event was divided into three different sections. The third and final section comprised exclusively of Bollywood numbers and dances, which drew the crowd into a frenzy, specially during performances featuring the latest Bollywood hits like Ghaghra and Nagada.

Like most Indians, the part that attracted me the most was the food zone featuring stalls from some of the most famous Indian restaurants in Adelaide. A range of Indian food was on sale, from street food like golgappas and chaat to dosai and idli; from traditional curries and naans to ice golas and masala paan. It was heaven for those who love Indian food. Despite the rain and wind, it was good to see a great turnout enjoying the performances, the festive atmosphere and the food, making the not-to-be-missed event a grand success.