Dancing through Zoom

How various MVHS Indian dance teams are adapting to remote learning

Diya Bahl

Just a day before it was announced that school would be shut down due to COVID-19, senior and second-year captain of MVHS Raas Harshitha Pandian was informed that their team would not be able to perform at UC Berkeley’s annual showcase due to the cancellation of all shows across the Bay Area. All MVHS Indian dance teams — including Raas, Bhangra and Andaaz — were unable to showcase their hard work and dedication, which Pandian says was something they had been looking forward to since learning the choreography. 

Because of the cancellations of almost all public events, the annual shows and competitions were some of the many activities that were abruptly put on hold. Cancellations also included frequent team bonding activities such as playing games during practice, going out to eat and the team’s annual photoshoot. Senior Akshat Rohatgi, second-year captain of MVHS Andaaz, comments on the impact of in-person team bonding pre-quarantine.

“My favorite aspect would definitely have to be the shows,” Rohatgi said. “It was like a breath of fresh air, being able to go out and perform across the Bay Area. Meeting new people from different schools at different shows and also just getting closer to your team was part of it as well. It was a really nice bonding activity and a really nice way to de-stress myself. It came to be something that I would look forward to.” 

As teams needed to adapt to functioning online, many changes arose in order to obey the safety guidelines. The team promotional process usually consists of posting flyers around the school to catch students’ attention and creating promotional videos for their social media platforms. Pandian explains Raas’ unique approach to marketing their team due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“One thing that we did besides making promo videos was we followed a lot of members from the MVHS 2023 and 2024 page,” Pandian said. “Then, we personally messaged people saying, ‘Hey, we’re MVHS Raas, we’re a dance team and we would really love it if you guys could check us out and see if you’d want to try out.’ That was something more on a one-to-one basis, and it might have been kind of creepy for a lot of people to get messages from a random team, but it actually gave us at least 10 more people who came to our workshops who weren’t there before.”


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MVHS Raas’ 2020-21 tryout routine | Post by MVHS Raas’ Instagram account

Along with promoting the team, workshops and tryouts had to be conducted over Zoom. These workshops pre-quarantine typically would be done over the course of two weeks in-person after school, ranging from about 1-2 hours. 

Prior to the workshops over Zoom, the students were given a pre-recorded YouTube video to serve as a resource. In regards to trying out, students were to submit a video of them dancing the routine, opposed to the regular occurrence of having to tryout in real life in front of the captains. 

Junior Karunya Ramamoorthy, second-year captain of MVHS Bhangra, mentions the benefits and drawbacks that come with workshops and tryouts being online.

“When trying out in real life, people can give you feedback, and that’s really important,” Ramamoorthy said. “People can actually see you and we can be like, ‘This is wrong, you should maybe fix this, try this.’ On Zoom, it’s much harder to do that, though the makeup workshops help. One of the advantages of being online is you can record the video as many times as you want, and also, you have more time to work on it by yourself and give yourself personal pointers, because trying out in person can sometimes be nerve wracking.”


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MVHS Bhangra’s 2020-21 promotional video | Post by MVHS Bhangra’s Instagram account

According to Rohatgi, dancing online serves as a difficulty because practicing and performing in front of people allows the performer to gage the reactions of those around them, which he believes is one of the most rewarding things about dancing. 

However, he is grateful for technology such as Zoom, in which the teams can continue to stay connected even if the situation isn’t ideal. Though, a given struggle with Zoom is the frequent occurrence of technical difficulties. Rohatgi recalls his experience with this aspect during MVHS Andaaz’s workshops when he had to dance in his garage because of his preference for more open space. 

“[Lag] is probably the biggest [technical difficulty],” Rohatgi said. “My wifi does reach my garage, but the signal isn’t nearly as strong as it would have been in other parts of my house. In terms of music lagging, it can sometimes be bad because there is an input delay on Zoom calls, so you’re not sure if the person dancing is missing the counts and missing the moves, or if it’s simply just the lag on Zoom.”

The captains of all teams had to adapt and change the club’s traditional operations, which required them to change the way in which they would usually teach their choreography. Pandian describes the struggle the captains faced when figuring out the best way to ensure that all students thoroughly understand the routine, which required a lot of communication. 

“In our first meeting, we tried putting people into two different breakout rooms and teaching them individually, but then both groups were on two different scales with what was going on,” Pandian said. “It was really hard for them and for us, because some people were really getting it and some people weren’t. Finding a way that works so that everyone is getting the attention they need to make sure that they’re learning is something we had to adjust to.”

The captains remain hopeful of an in-person second semester, in which they would be able to conduct real life practices, even if they require precautions such as staying six feet apart. Nevertheless, Ramamoorthy expresses that she is excited for being able to bond with the new team through Zoom practices, and believes it will serve as a great new experience to connect with new people.


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MVHS Andaaz’s 2020-21 promotional video | Post by MVHS Andaaz’s Instagram account

Though there are many obstacles that the teams have had to overcome in order to function to the best of their ability, the captains of all three teams believe that this year will be another great one with lots of online team bonding, as well as many fun experiences.

“I’m most excited to see how the team turns out, because we’ve traditionally had such a concrete formula with real life practices and real life shows,” Rohatgi said. “I’m really excited to see how effective everything’s going to be online, and I’m confident about the team’s abilities, as well as the fact that everyone that we selected is a really strong dancer. I believe we can turn out to be just as strong of a team as we’ve been in previous years, even though we’ve had the huge hurdle of doing everything online.”