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The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

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Students perform songs, dances at SAAG assembly

%E2%80%9CIt+was+fun+and+entertaining+in+an+unexpected+way%2C%E2%80%9D+freshman+SAAG+member+Mira+Pemmanda+said.+%E2%80%9CIt+was+the+perfect+representation+of+our+vibrant+Indian+culture.%E2%80%9D
Courtesy of Eshna Das
“It was fun and entertaining in an unexpected way,” freshman SAAG member Mira Pemmanda said. “It was the perfect representation of our vibrant Indian culture.”

The last thing students expected to hear when Online Technical Editor senior Arjun Maitra stepped on the stage to perform his tabla solo for the annual SAAG assembly was “Sicko Mode” by Travis Scott blasting on the speakers. 

When Maitra composed his piece, he decided to combine classical Indian music with a popular rap song. An experienced tabla player of 11 years, Arjun is all about experimenting with different styles of music and trying new creative mashups. Two years ago he blended a traditional Indian song with Shape of You  by Ed Sheeran. 

“My main goal was to imitate the drum machine used in Sicko Mode on the traditional Indian tabla,” Maitra said. “But going from Indian drums to the sound of a synthetic drum machine isn’t exactly super easy to transition.”

Despite his initial struggles, Maitra’s performance was energetic and well-received.  

But his surprising music choice on the tabla was not the only thing Arjun had in store. 

“The day before the assembly I came up with the idea to jump off the stage mid-dance, just to have fun with it,” Maitra said.

Though his decision was last-minute, the annual Bollywood dance had been a long time coming. 

In late November, seniors Nadiya Naehr and Diya Kodgire started working on choreography. Naehr and Kodgire spent hours in the studio choosing music, forming choreography and ensuring their heritage and culture shone through every step.

“We kind of stared at each other until something fit and the songs made sense of the choreography,” Kodgire said.

Once they had the steps down, Kodgire and Naehr filmed instructional videos and sent them out to the eight students who had volunteered to perform. 

“They broke it down to really easy to understand steps so that we could get a grasp of what the dance was supposed to look like,” freshman Gayatri Konduri said.

The next few rehearsals, the team fine tuned details and focused on bringing traditional Bollywood energy to the stage. During each rehearsal they would review what they had previously learned, practice formations and review tricky parts.

“It was really simple and well-structured,” Konduri said.   

Yet, challenges arose once the varying experience levels among team members became evident during rehearsal.   

 “A lot of it was trying to figure out choreography that would work for everybody,” Kodgire said. “Some things that were easy for Nadiya and I weren’t easy for everybody else.” 

After hours of rehearsal and revision, everyone on the team was confident in their ability to execute the routine. But, two days before the SAAG dance crew took the stage at the assembly, Kodgire and Naehr decided to switch the music. 

“Bollywood dance is known to be the big energetic part of the assembly and our current routine wasn’t doing it justice,” Kodgire said. “The last minute switch made it fit with the vibe of what we wanted to do.”  

The change in music worked out as the new, fast-paced rhythm and timing flowed with the energy of the rest of the assembly. 

“I think one of the challenges was leaning into the fun side of it. We were all a bit self-conscious about performing in front of the entire upper school, especially me and the other two freshmen,” Konduri said. “But I think at the same time it’s become one of our successes. Once we were on the stage we made it look fun.”

From sophomores Abi Balachandran and Raka Agrawal’s mashup of “Rolling in the Deep” and the “Dhoom” theme song to the entertaining SAAG Q&A video, all performances were lively and captivated the audience. 

“It was fun and entertaining in an unexpected way,” freshman SAAG member Mira Pemmanda said. “It was the perfect representation of our vibrant Indian culture.”

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About the Contributors
Bella Dodig, Staff Writer
Bella Dodig ('27) joined The Review in 2023 as a freshman. She plays volleyball and loves all things grape-flavored. 
Nia Shetty, Staff Writer
Nia Shetty ('27) joined The Review in 2023 as a freshman. She loves her dogs, Chuy and Casper. Her favorite TV character is Dr. House, whose unconventional approach to solving cases makes her laugh all the time.

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