Energetic dance and singing performances. Upbeat Bollywood music. Delicious food. Performers from all over the Bay Area. These are some of the highlights of the annual cultural showcase Silsilay, which Lynbrook’s American-Indo Student Association (AISA) presents every year during the spring.
The showcase, which brings hundreds of students and parents out every year, is the product of an almost year-long effort by many dedicated AISA members and Bay Area high school students. In mid-November, music and dance acts from different Bay Area high schools audition for the 15 to 20 dance performance spots in the show. AISA sends out act decisions and set lists during December, as well as planning committee applications to club members. In January, the planning committees begin organizing multiple different aspects of the show such as food, tech, decorations, and a promotional video. The performers practice their routines and rehearse in the months approaching the show. The execution of the actual show takes the efforts of many volunteers helping run everything from ticket sales to backstage.
The same dedicated preparation and effort went into creating a successful Silsilay this year and with many students looking forward to a fun and meaningful time, the unexpected cancellation of the show due to the shelter-in-place saddened many performers, planners, volunteers and spectators.
“Hundreds of people get involved every year and because Silsilay was canceled it was really sad for us and for all the people who would have been a part of it,” AISA co-president Priyanka Pereira said. “I think everyone was so collectively upset that it didn’t happen that everyone was mourning together.”
AISA managed to lift spirits, actively bringing people together and providing an opportunity for performers to showcase some of their hard work with a virtual Silsilay. Throughout the week starting on April 4, many AISA members and Silsilay performers participated in social media challenges.
In the first challenge, participants posted their favorite Silsilay or AISA memories, which included photos and videos from planning Silsilays, attending past Silsilays and practicing in rehearsals. In the second challenge, the performance challenge, dance teams and singing teams posted clips of rehearsals. They also presented choreography or songs they had been preparing for this year’s Silsilay or performing in other shows.
For example, freshman Aneesha Jobi posted clips of the Bollywood hip-hop dance team she danced on, LHS Jalwa.
“LHS Jalwa had a lot of videos and funny memories because we had performed in two previous shows, Irvington High School’s Dil Se and Monta Vista High School’s Tashan,” Jobi said. “So I was able to post a lot of that. We had lots of funny games and we were all eating snacks and practicing and switching parts.”
For the final challenge, AISA transferred another important element of Silsilay online. Usually, Silsilay ends with a fashion show in which many of the AISA volunteers and performers walk down the auditorium in traditional South Asian clothing such as lehengas and kurtas. Keeping with this tradition, in the third virtual Silsilay challenge, many participants modeled their favorite South Asian clothing on their Instagram stories.
To wrap up the week, AISA held a club meeting on Zoom, in which the club members and alumni played Kahoot to test their knowledge on South Asian culture and general AISA trivia.
One important aspect of Silsilay which AISA was not able to accomplish as easily online was fundraising. The revenues from Silsilay typically go to non-profit organizations. Over the years Silsilay has raised more than $50,000 for charities that support education in rural areas of India. Since there was no show to sell tickets for this year, AISA was unable to raise money.
“It’s definitely a big blow,” Pereira said. “This was supposed to be the ninth Silsilay. This is the first year in nearly a decade that we haven’t done anything like having raised money for charity. I just wish that we had the opportunity to do more and Silsilay had happened.”
Though it may not be able to completely replace the meaningful and exciting experience of Silsilay, virtual Silsilay was a success on many levels, especially for the AISA officers due to their ability to adjust to the unexpected circumstances and the new insights they gained.
“I think overall it was a success for the opportunities that we created from this situation,” Pereira said. “We learned we should definitely do more social media challenges, even if we are back at school. It’s fun and people get involved in different ways.”
For those in AISA who will continue to contribute to Silsilay and the club in the future, this year’s cancellation of the showcase was a loss but not a permanent setback, as they can look forward to next year.
“I’m looking forward to finally being able to perform with my team at Silsilay because I really wanted to this year but we obviously couldn’t,” Jobi said. “Since I’m an officer next year, I’m also looking forward to seeing all of the fresh faces and getting the Class of 2024 involved in Silsilay, and spreading the word about our club.”