Americans are big on seasoning. A little bit of salt. A dash of pepper. A smidgen of oregano. Spices serve as boredom relief for taste buds. A little bit of flavor goes a long way on a dull plate.
The same goes for dance.
On the spice rack of the dance world, there are dozens of shakers to choose from. A new dance group has all the ingredients in a single spice to sprinkle on the eyes of Temple students.
Temple Masti Dance Fusion is a funky cluster of talent and diversity. They merge bhangra, Hindi, hip-hop and break dancing into one tantalizing combination.
The Homecoming beauty pageant crowd saw the dancers perform last Wednesday. Students witnessed flailing hands, vivacious feet, gymnastic stunts and evident passion from the excited faces of the dancers.
“I loved the performance,” said senior occupational therapy major Rachel Vaseri. “It was energetic and fun. Bhangra is very upbeat.”
Bhangra fusion is a funky drumbeat founded in the origins of Punjabi, an Indo-Aryan ethnic group from South Asia. Temple Masti uses their Indian roots as a base system for their dance, but choose to merge many genres.
Their mantra says it all: “Hit the track. Dance the beat. Live it up”
This is the team’s motto, according to sophomore law and business major Nirmal Patel, the group’s vice president and public relations representative.
“Masti means ‘craziness in activities,'” said sophomore chemistry major Dhru Patel, group president. “It’s an Indian phrase.”
The sound resembles jungle rain dance paired with a sultry hip-hop twist. Top 40 hits mixed with techno-funk lend to a unique sound. The group makes its own beats and self-choreographs the dance moves. Masti specializes in routine musical transitions, adapting dance genres to opposite moves, and utilizing floor space.
“I’ve been into music since the age of four,” said Nirmal Patel. “As soon as I got into music, I got into dance. I can’t help myself. All these genres mixed together is mad fun.”
Merian Soto, associate professor and MFA program coordinator of the Boyer College of Dance, said fusion has always been a part of history.
“From the beginning of time, people have been coming together,” she said. “We live in one big global village and share dance. We do it because dancing is incredibly fun.”
Dhru Patel started the group while he was a student at Bensalem Township High School in 2005. Last year marked Temple Masti’s first year as a professional group. Two highlights of past performances include a Phillies game and a performance at Drexel University.
The group consists of 10 members. Earlier this month, four newcomers were invited to join after dance tryouts. At the tryouts, members hoped to discover talent and potentially add other races to the primarily Indian ensemble.
“The tryouts brought more diverse and well-rounded guys to come dance,” Dhru Patel said.
“We are looking to expand even more,” Nirmal Patel said. “We’re not afraid to add on. We want white, black, Hispanic, Asian, whoever loves dance and can have fun with us.”
One shoo-in was freshman civil engineering major Parin Patel who swears to shake off his shyness and represent his heritage by becoming a member.
“I love to dance and have known these guys from high school,” he said. “My goal this year is to hopefully win a competition.”
Heritage is a huge aspect of Masti. Indian religious backgrounds are apparent in most aspects of these dancing sensations. Before getting onstage, the dancers pray together.
Prayer helps the group to focus, and the use of Indian instruments and costumes accentuates the group’s overall culture, they say. Though the members creatively combine multiple genres of music, they place more emphasis on their roots.
“Bhangra is a huge part of who we are,” Dhru Patel said. But it’s certainly not limited to the Indian community. The group hopes to gain all kinds of student influence, with various skills and backgrounds.
“Everyone is free to express themselves, and this is one great way to do it,” said Nirmal Patel.
Dance connects the soul to the body. Masti is not merely a sense of expression, but an opportunity for unity. This group of Temple gentlemen has mastered a move for every mood.
“We share the love of the art of dance, an art form easy to fall in love with.” Dhru Patel said.
The group is set to perform on Saturday, Oct. 20, at midnight during a Garba Dance Festival at Pennsylvania National Guard Armory Hall, 2700 Southampton Rd., in Northeast Philadelphia.
Gina Ryder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.