The 20th annual Rangila dance show will be held at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts on Nov. 22 as a result of structural problems in the show’s usual venue, Gaston Hall.
The coordinators of the cultural dance performance, which is put on by the South Asian Society and will feature around 500 student dancers, officially signed a contract with the Kennedy Center last Friday.
Last month, The Office of Planning and Facilities Management performed an engineering analysis on Gaston Hall’s stage and found it to be structurally unsound for groups of over 45 people. Renovations will occur on the stage this summer.
Event coordinators Alisha Datwani (MSB ’15) and Medha Chandorkar (COL ’15) said that after discovering that Gaston Hall was no longer an option for the performance, they met with the Center for Student Engagement and the Office of the President to brainstorm venues.
“As soon as we found out that we didn’t have Gaston, we called a meeting with the South Asian Society board and we all collaboratively came up with every single option in the general vicinity of Georgetown as to where we could hold Rangila,” Datwani said.
Rangila Master of Ceremony Priya Sharma (MSB ’15) said that the sudden announcement regarding Gaston’s condition worried many performers and choreographers.
“The second you take away Gaston Hall, that’s at the core of what Rangila is, it’s a tradition,” Sharma said. “People are excited to perform in such a a prestigious hall. So when you say it’s not going to be there because the stage is not ‘structurally sound’— that was the phrase continuously used — people were anxious,” Sharma said.
After considering numerous options, the Office of the President helped SAS secure the Kennedy Center. According to the University President John J. DeGioia’s Chief of Staff Joe Ferrara, the office’s past collaboration with the Kennedy Center on events like “Let Freedom Ring!” for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the “Faith, Culture and the Common Good” conference, which the university co-hosted with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and the Archdiocese of Washington, made this agreement feasible.
“As a result of our relationship with the Kennedy Center and an opening in their performance calendar, we had the opportunity to host this event there this year,” Ferrara wrote in an email. “We are excited for Rangila to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a performance at a venue that is such an important part of the community.”
Chandorkar said that this year will most likely be the only time that Rangila will be held in the Kennedy Center.
“We are all going to sit down and look at what Rangila will look like in the future. The Kennedy Center just frankly isn’t a realistic option for a year-to-year basis but we have confidence that going on from here it’s going to get better and better,” Chandorkar said.
Datwani and Chandorkar said that although the venue has changed, they are striving to maintain the energy and spirit of a Georgetown tradition.
“Even though it’s an amazing opportunity and an amazing venue, we didn’t want to compromise so much that it didn’t become Rangila,” Vasant said. “We kept that mind throughout the process. Really there aren’t too many things changing other than the fact that Gaston was never built for a dance performance so to have a stage with a full light array and space, it’s really fantastic to be on a stage that was made to dance on.”
Choreographer Matthew Chan (COL ’15) said that although he will miss Gaston Hall, he is eager to perform at a world-famous venue.
“There is some sentimentality attached to Gaston because it’s something so intrinsically Georgetown, but when you think about D.C. in general, the Kennedy Center is the place to be,” Chan said. “When you think about the East Coast and you think about where is the biggest stage you can perform ever, the Kennedy Center is right up there. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
One major change to the usual two-show Rangila performance is that it will now be held on only one night. The Kennedy Center fits 2,300 to Gaston Hall’s 800, and Chandorkar said they predict the sale of 1,800 tickets for the single performance. Some of those tickets have been reserved for alumni, dignitaries, faculty, staff and families of performers.
“We are allocating to more family coming, more faculty and staff coming,” Datwani said. “Students who never get tickets will definitely get tickets this year.”
The extra 500 seats will serve as a waiting area for student dancers who want to watch their peers perform.
“Every year in Gaston, dancers who were waiting to dance go line up in the back and just watch the show unofficially and stand the whole time, but it’s very inconvenient,” Chandorkar said. “This year obviously Kennedy Center won’t allow that, so the top tier of seats — about 400 seats — are all reserved for dancers. So anyone who’s not in the wings waiting or on stage dancing can grab a seat and catch the show.”
Tickets to the performance have increased from $15 to $20, and Datwani said that they ensured that prices stayed low to allow all members of the community to attend the event.
“We personally feel like we stepped up the quality of the show this year and at the end of the day we are a student production, there was no way we were going to charge more than that,” she said.
The larger stage at the Kennedy Center has prompted choreography changes that will allow dancers to spread out, according to Datwani.
“We told them immediately after we knew that we didn’t have Gaston: ‘Plan for a bigger space,’” Datwani said. “What that means in terms of general formations and transitions: Formations can be bigger, better. The problem with Gaston is there is very little depth so finales look a little clustered and formations look flattened. So we told them to work with more space.”
The event will raise awareness for the Pritam Spiritual Foundation, a group based in Kashmir, India that provides medical aid for those injured by land mines.
“It’s amazing work not being done by any other group and we thought the interfaith aspect really fit into the Jesuit values of Georgetown, and their mission really aligns with Jesuit values, Georgetown values and Rangila as well,” Vasant said. “We love their work and we really want to support them and this year their funding was cut by 50 percent because the Indian army pulled all their funding. We wanted to step up and help them out.”
In honor of Rangila’s 20th anniversary, its theme this year is “A Story of Time Travel.”
The sheer size of the new venue has led to a few nerves for those set to perform before a sold-out house of 2,300 audience members and fellow performers.
“My reaction was ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ I thought I was going to be on stage with my [fellow MC Jimmy Ramirez (COL ’15)] in front of Gaston Hall, and now it’s 2,300,” Sharma said. “This number is very much ingrained in my mind. For me, it’s daunting.”