Raas: Preparing for a new season

Personality profiles on the 2018-2019 Raas captains


Herman Saini and Stuti Upadhyay

Divya Suresh (11)

Indian classical dancing has been a part of junior and Raas captain Divya Suresh’s life since she was five years old. Her mother, who danced when she was younger, wanted to see her daughter finish dance training because she was personally unable to do so.

Her mom’s encouragement started Suresh’s dance journey and eventually led to her joining Raas a few years later.

“I was doing Indian classical dance, and I had finished my arangetram. Then I came to Monta Vista, and I heard of Raas,” Suresh said. “I knew it was the team for me. That was actually the only team I tried out for.”

Suresh joined Raas as an outlet to keep dancing and to try something new, though it quickly developed into something far more meaningful. Her favorite Raas memory was the first show she ever performed in, called Dil Se.

“I was just a member then, so it was my first time dancing in an actual show, and it was just so thrilling to get ready, and have people pin [costumes]] you,” Suresh said. “And I remember we went out for Taco Bell [after]. It was just so fun.”

Suresh values the team atmosphere that comes with Raas, believing that it has taught her lessons about teamwork, dedication and leadership.

Raas has allowed Suresh to interact with different people, especially with underclassman and people in other grades. After participating her freshman year as a member, Suresh applied and was chosen to be a captain her sophomore year. This marked a new level of commitment to the team, one that came with a lot more work and pressure. Nonetheless, Suresh loved being a captain and loved bonding with her co-captains, who graduated last year.

“I feel like last year I was able to bond with the other two captains so much,” Suresh said. “We would always come together to work on Raas, choreo[graphy] or work on music, talk to the DJ, but we’d also do all these other fun things,” said Suresh.

Although Suresh loves Raas, she also expresses that there are many challenges that come with being a part of the team. Suresh is also the president of IASA, the Indo-American Student Association, a third-degree black belt and a varsity volleyball player. According to Suresh, it is difficult to balance all of this along with her vigorous school load.

Being captain involves hours of work throughout the year, ranging from listening to over one hundred songs, cutting them, finding DJs, organizing workshops and auditions, choosing outfits, coordinating with designers in India, making videos, teaching members, creating dandiyas (the sticks used during the dance) and managing other club logistics.

Still, Suresh wouldn’t trade Raas for anything and knows she will be able to manage, especially with the support from her flexible and capable co-captains. She’s looking forward to the coming year and can’t wait to see how Raas will grow and develop as a team.

“I’m looking forward to just bonding with the new captains because they were captains last year, but being co-captains with them, you get to really connect with them and you spend so much more time together,” said Suresh. “I also am looking forward to seeing who the new team is, what the team vibe is going to be because it’s always different every year.”

Kamya Krishnan (12)

Senior and Raas captain Kamya Krishnan took her first dance class, a Bharatyanatyam class, when she was in second grade, primarily because her mom signed her up for a dancing class. By the time Krishnan entered high school, she had been dedicated to dancing for over five years.

Despite this, Krishnan didn’t get involved with dance teams until Raas her junior year.

“I’ve always been really afraid to try out for dance teams,” Krishnan said. “My junior year I decided, okay, why not give Raas a shot…I heard good things about it,” Krishnan said. “[And] then I just did it for fun, I got on the team. And it just led on from there and [it’s been] really great so far.“

Raas quickly became an important part of Krishnan’s life, and even the smallest memories, like filming modern dance videos together, made her Raas experience truly memorable.

“We all do funky things with our sticks and like try and [then tell the captains] we have a new step we want to teach you, and we would do something really crazy,” said Krishnan. “Those kind of memories are my favorite memories.”

What makes these memories so special to Krishnan is often the people she gets to spend them with. One of the things Krishnan is most looking forward for this year’s Raas season is working with a new team.

“Last year, I met a lot of new people because of Raas,” Krishnan said. “I don’t think I would have talked to half these people if I wasn’t on a team with them. So that was really great,” said Krishnan.  And I’m [excited to meet] the people [on the team].”

Along with a new team, a big transition for Krishnan this year is her transition from member to captain. The captains have already done a significant amount of work leading up to the start of school, from planning music to designing costumes.

“We just need to assemble a team and essentially start practices. We just go with the flow, so it’s not like we have everything done in the beginning,” Krishnan said. “[Rather] we keep working and do small increments of it … throughout the entire year.”

According to Krishnan, one trait of hers that is especially useful to her on the captain team is her tech savviness and willingness to learn. Although she had never done so before, Krishnan taught herself how to mix, cut and play around with music that the Raas team planned on using.

“I like learning new things all the time. So if there’s something I need to do, and I don’t know how to do that, I’ll be like I’ll do it anyways because I’m down to learn,” said Krishnan. “Even if it takes me hours, I don’t really care because at least it’s a new skill.”

Krishnan wants to apply this curiosity to learn and add something new to the Raas team as well. This year, she hopes to experiment with music and choreography to see if Raas can try something innovative and exciting.

“For the high school level, we aren’t focusing on being too traditional. We just want to mix things and see how things works,” said Krishnan. “So definitely incorporating some salsa steps or other kind of  dance steps that aren’t traditional Raas would be really cool.”

After graduating, Krishnan hopes to use her experience and the skills she learned on Raas to spread this form of dance to other people she meets. Krishnan explains that Raas isn’t a common form of dance, and very few people who aren’t Indian know about it, something she hopes to help change.

Meera Pala (11)

Junior Meera Pala is starting her third year on Raas and beginning her first year as being a captain. She always enjoyed the social aspects of the activities she participates in and finds that to be the best part of what she does.

“I think spending time with friends really helps me with [my] confidence and just being who I am and [it has] really helped me form who I am,” Pala said.

This love for social interactions and being around her friends is what led her to find out about the team.

“In freshman year, I had a friend that was already on the team [and] she told me so much about it.” said Pala. “She was really interested in it and she told me how much she loved doing it,”

Her favorite memories embody what the team has brought to her so far and what she looks forward to in the future.

“My favorite memory would just be all the performances,” said Pala. “There wasn’t a specific moment that I really really loved but I think all of them just together and being with the team and being able to bond with them is just amazing.”

Pala’s love for the team was made through all the connections she’s made and reflects in what she plans for the future. She hopes she can continue to meet new people but also improve Raas as a whole.

“I just wanna add as much as I can and make as many contributions that I can make. I’m just going to try and focus on the team and make it as good as I can,” said Pala. “We’re always trying to find new things [to add to the team], like promotions and the dance choreography. We’re always trying make it innovative and new.”