Student performer at Raas, the Ohio State dancing at a competition. Credit: Courtesy of Richa Patel

As the Raas at Ohio State dance team looks ahead to its upcoming competitive season, members of the group reflect on the art form and its origins, dating back to ancient northern India.

Raas at Ohio State is a co-ed competitive dance team performing Garba-Raas, a dance style with Hindu-influenced origins in the state of Gujarat, which incorporates colorful costuming and dandiya — sticks used primarily by male dancers — among many other features, Richa Patel, a third-year in biology, said.

Richa Patel described the style as passionate and energetic. The dances are full of speed, footwork and various arm movements with choreography often based on a theme. 

Richa Patel said the group typically performs in costumes with roughly eight men and eight women on stage. 

Denish Patel, an officer of the group and a fourth-year in neuroscience, said he was introduced to the art as an adolescent while attending Navaratri, a Hindu festival spanning over nine days that engages people in Garba dancing. Although the festival originated in India, many cities throughout the United States partake in the celebration, he said. 

“It’s something that’s been part of my childhood,” Malay Shah, a fourth-year in computer science and engineering, said of Garba-Raas. “It’s something that I’ve done for a while, and this is something that is a little bit different because it is collegiate, so the style is different, but the roots — the point of it — is still there, where you’re trying to spread culture and remember what this is all about.”

Richa Patel said the Ohio State group started years ago, but disappeared. Three years ago, after a hiatus, Krishna Patel, now an Ohio State alumna, revived the group.

“When Krishna first started the team, I was looking for a team,” Denish Patel said. “I needed to be a part of the Indian community and meet more like-minded individuals from the Gujarati community especially, and I found Raas.”

After attending a few workshops, Denish Patel said he loved the people from the group and joined.

The group performs at campus events such as Buckeyes Go Global and Taste of OSU, in addition to traveling across the country to compete alongside other collegiate Raas groups in Raas All-Star competitions.

Shah said the group is learning a short segment of its set, which it can record to make an audition video to apply for various competitions throughout the country.

The group is currently applying to attend a competition in November and incorporating new original choreography.