It’s that time of year again – the snow has melted, flip-flops are making their appearance on the quad, and that means MELA is just around the corner. On Saturday, the Association for the Development of Interest in the Indian Subcontinent (ADITI) will celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary with an all-new line up, packed with dancing, music, skits and even a fashion show, all of which will present South Asian culture at its finest.

“This year, the show is completely changed and different,” ADITI president and senior Amita DeSouza said. The theme, “A South Asian Wedding: A Family Affair,” is what makes this year’s MELA different than ones in the past. Through the performances and skits, the audience will follow an American man, senior Ted Limpert, as he attempts to plan a wedding with his South Asian fiance senior Maya Gurme, and her family.

“I definitely think the theme is going to change it up. It really gives a focus to the whole show,” DeSouza added. Even the MELA Dinner, catered by Thali of India, taking place after the show, will be in the style of a wedding reception, with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

DeSouza and the ADITI Executive Board have been preparing for this event since July. And with over 100 different performers and a tradition of selling out Strong Auditorium, it is clearly one of the most popular student-run events at UR.

This year, the show will present a number of different dance routines, including performances by the Bhangra Team. Bhangra, a high-energy style of traditional Indian dance, originates from the North Indian state of Punjab. “The Bhangra Team prepares its routine a long while in advance because we compete and constantly perform at other shows,” head captain and junior Ambar Bajaj said. “For me, it’s been a little stressful. But in the end, after it’s all over, these late night sweaty practices are what you remember.”

Sophomore Scott Schultheis, new to the Bhangra Team this semester, will also be performing at MELA. Although Schultheis is not of South Asian descent, he already feels at home with the team. “There really isn’t much exclusivity, everyone is very accepting and I’ve made a few really close friends from getting involved with MELA,” Schultheis said.

A wide variety of other types of dancing will also be performed at the show. “We have a classical number that’s very traditional Indian; we have some South Indian folk numbers; we have some Bollywood numbers. We’re kind of all over the board this year,” DeSouza said. The newly formed Raas Team will also be demonstrating the Raas and Garba style of dance, which incorporates the use of sticks.

UR students are not the only ones who will be involved. Rochester Kids Bhangra, a group that Rochester students helped start, will also make an appearance. Although they are younger, ranging in age from five to 19 years old, they are just as impressive to watch.

And there’s a lot more to MELA than just dancing. There will also be a fashion show, where students will model various styles of dress from different states of India. In some of the outfits, different patterns of cloth will represent different states or regions, and all of the clothing is guaranteed to be ornate and colorful.

Instrumental performances will include a tabla (hand drums) player and a harmonium player. The goal is to showcase as much of the huge variety of South Asian music as possible. The skits, which are known for their comedic portrayal of everyday South Asian culture, will show up every now and then throughout the program. “It’s going to be very, very funny this time around,” Schultheis said.

MELA is a renowned cultural experience for both performers and audience members alike. “I think people are just very dedicated because they love the show and they love the music. People just have a great time,” DeSouza said. And this year, as always, it seems to be an event you don’t want to miss. Not even for Easter.

MELA will take place on Saturday, April 7 in Strong Auditorium at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $3 for the show and $11 for the show and dinner and are available at the Common Market and India Market (3259 Winton Road).

Crews is a member of the class of 2008.

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