South Asian Student Association’s annual SASA Show embraces Desi culture


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

Members of Pitt’s South Asian Student Association sing during the SASA show in Bellefield Hall on Saturday.

By Shreya Singh, Senior Staff Writer

The song “Rude Boy” by Rihanna blared through the speakers as a first-year on stage — surrounded by backup dancers — donned a red puffer jacket and recreated Rihanna’s TikTok-viral Superbowl performance

More than 100 students gathered in Bellefield Hall Auditorium on Saturday evening to watch the SASA Show — the South Asian Student Association’s annual dance showcase. The show featured a performance from Bollywood fusion a cappella group Avaaz, as well performances from South Asian dance teams across campus representing different forms of dance like bhangra, Bharatanatyam, garba and more. 

The line-up included First Class Bhangra, Nrityamala, Steel City Raas, Mastana and newly-formed all-male Bollywood fusion team Steel City Shershaah. For the first time in the show’s history, Asian-pop dance team FRESA performed as well. Afterward, the first-years, sophomores, juniors and seniors competed in “Class Dances,” which the juniors won. 

Shreena Patel, SASA’s president and a junior accounting and business information systems major, said the showcase is meant to bring all the teams together in support of one another. 

“What’s nice is since a lot of these teams are competing throughout the year, they don’t get to see each other perform often, so the SASA showcase is kind of a wrap-around of the year,” she said. “They can all see each other perform and every team is cheering on the other teams and it’s a very community-based and supportive event.”

Members of Steel City Raas perform during Pitt’s South Asian Student Association show in Bellefield Hall on Saturday. (John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer)

Teams dressed in a variety of outfits and accessories pertaining to their dance performances. First Class Bhangra wore vardi — short for vardiyaan, which are traditional bhangra outfits — in an array of colors like red, blue, purple and green. Nrityamala dancers wore ghungroos, a type of anklet with dozens of small bells attached that help to accentuate the beat of the music, allowing the audience to hear complex foot movement. 

Riya Shah, one of SASA’s programming chairs and a sophomore on the pre-pharmacy track, said the club is open to any team wanting to perform at the show. 

“Anyone who wants to perform can reach out to us,” Shah said. “We’re open to anyone and everyone who’s willing to perform because the show is supposed to showcase South Asian culture with dance, but also have other communities and cultures feel welcomed as well.”

Shah said the programming committee starts prepping for the show in early February and other committees join the process later on.

“The first part of it is just getting together the teams and everyone we want to perform and that’s pretty much all of February,” Shah said. “We have class dances as well so we reach out to students willing to participate for that too. Later, we’ll start to get the other committees on SASA board together, like the publicity committee, and talk about how we want to advertise.” 

Caroline Vo, FRESA’s public relations chair and a sophomore psychology major, said the team felt honored to perform at the show. The team wore satin button-down shirts of varying colors and performed a hip-hop routine to “Sugar Rush Ride” by Tomorrow x Together

“We felt really excited and grateful for SASA reaching out to us,” Vo said. “A lot of us weren’t familiar with SASA so this gave us an opportunity to find out about the showcase and attend and I hope we can collaborate together again in the future.” 

Vo said it took some time for the group to prepare their performance, but it was worth it in the end.

“For ‘Sugar Rush Ride,’ it took us about two weeks to fully put it together,” Vo said. “Each week, we’d meet anywhere from two to three times for a couple of hours each. We’ve been practicing it with one another for over a month, but there’s always ways to make it cleaner. It’s a lot of energy and time but the end product is worth it.”

Oam Patel, co-captain of Steel City Shershaah and a sophomore rehabilitation science major, said the show was the perfect opportunity for Shershaah to debut as a team. The team wore all-black outfits and their routine included a fusion of different dance styles like bhangra and hip-hop.

“This was our first live performance and a lot of the guys that decided to perform with us are new,” he said. “We also were excited because Rohit and I have a little bit of dance experience dancing on Mastana and Sahara so with that, we wanted to give the other guys more dance exposure and SASA show was the perfect opportunity to do that.” 

He added that the team didn’t stress over practicing for their performance. 

“We didn’t practice for too long,” he said. “We started like two weeks ago and practiced every other day. We can pick it up pretty easily as long as everyone has the willingness to do it. Most of our preparation was actually for team advertising to gain interest.”

Shreena Patel added that it’s great to see the South Asian community at Pitt come together and celebrate Desi culture. 

“We just want to show that there are different aspects to our culture,” she said. “It’s a good way to get our community together because I feel like with the South Asian community at Pitt, everybody kind of knows everybody, and coming together in one room is always super comforting.”