Chicago IL: The Federation of Gujarati Associations of North America (FOGANA) held the 36th Midwest Regional Cultural event of Raas, Garba, and Folk dance competition on Saturday, July 9th at Copernicus Center (Gateway Theater) in Chicago. The event featured performances by over 266 participants, and was attended by over 1000 including Chief Guest Chhotabhai Patel and Guests of Honor Dr. Bharat Barai and Dr. Umang Patel.
FOGANA was founded in 1980 with the goal of bringing all Gujarati people living in North America closer together by promoting a common platform to sustain and perpetuate the cultural heritage of Gujarat, India. The primary activity of FOGANA has been focused on preserving and enhancing Gujarati Raas-Garba-Folk Dances while engaging the younger generation in efforts to preserving and spreading their heritage.
Nirisha Shah, Joint Cultural Secretary of Gujarati Samaj Chicago welcomed the sponsors, judges, choreographers, managers, participants and volunteers. She further added that this was a day of great anticipation and wonderful dreams, and a day to celebrate Gujarat’s rich heritage and culture. She also reviewed the basic rules and guidelines for the attendees to ensure the event went smoothly and efficiently.
The event began with the traditional Mangal Deep lighting ceremony by Chhotabhai Patel, Dr. Bharat Barai, and Suryakant Patel, each with their respective families. A prayer dance by Nrutya Kalashree Dance Academy followed with the song title Mangalastakam, choreographed by Guru Smt. Toral Chaudhari. Smt. Toral Chaudhari was also one of the performers of the prayer dance. The second prayer dance was performed by Mudra Dance Academy with the song title Shree Ganeshay Dheemahi, choreographed by Guru Smt. Kshama Shah.
Suryakant Patel, GSC President gave a brief history and highlight of Gujarati Samaj Chicago, founded in 1976 by Jayantilal Mashar. Midwest Regional FOGANA Chairman Mukesh Shah said, emphasized that activities like the Raas-Garba folk dances are the best possible medium to engage the younger generation in our culture and heritage in this foreign land. Our heritage will always survive with the miracle medicine of FOGANA. The message from the FOGANA Steering Committee was performed by Chairperson Urvashi Patel and Vice- Chairperson Sandhya Shah.
In all, 18 dances were performed as part of the FOGANA dance completion. Participants were from Illinois, Michigan and Texas. Overall, 266 participants competed in Raas, Garba, and Folk dance within four different categories which included Minor, Junior, Senior and Adult. The following were the teams in these four categories: Minor Raas by Srujan Dance (Illinois) and Sur Sangam (Texas); Minor Garba by Gurjari of Chicago (Illinois); Minor Folk Dance by Gunjan Group of Chicago (Illinois), Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan) and Gujarati Samaj Chicago (Illinois); Junior Raas by Srujan Dance (Illinois) and Sur Sangam (Texas); Junior Garba by Gurjari of Chicago (Illinois); Junior Folk Dance by Sur Sangam (Texas); Senior Garba by Sur Sangam (Texas); Senior Folk Dance by Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan); Adult Raas by Gujarati Samaj Chicago (Illinois) and Sur Sangam (Texas); Adult Garba by Gurjari of Chicago (Illinois); and Adult Folk Dance by Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan) and Sur Sangam (Texas).
The event winning teams in the four categories were as follows: Minor Garba Gurjari of Chicago (Illinois) First Prize, Minor Raas Srujan Dance (Illinois) Second Prize, Minor Raas Sur Sangam (Texas) First Prize, Minor Folk Dance Gunjan Group Chicago Third Prize, Minor Folk Dance Gujarati Samaj Chicago (Illinois) Second Prize, Minor Folk Dance Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan) First Prize and Minor Best Choreographer Raksha Dave.
Junior Garba Gurjari of Chicago (Illinois) First Prize, Junior Raas Srujan Dance (Illinois) Second Prize, Junior Raas Sur Sangam (Texas) First Prize, Junior Folk Dance Sur Sangam (Texas) Second Prize, Junior Folk Dance Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan) First Prize, Junior Best Choreographer Induben Mongrola and Sunita Narayana and Minor Best costume Raksha Dave.
Senior Garba Sur Sangam (Texas) First Prize, Senior Folk Dance Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan) First Prize, Senior Best Choreographer Raksha Dave and Minor Best costume Induben Mongrola. Adult Garba Gurjari of Chicago (Illinois) First Prize, Adult Raas Gujarati Samaj Chicago (Illinois) Second Prize
Adult Raas Sur Sangam (Texas) First Prize, Adult Folk Dance Sur Sangam (Texas) Second Prize, Adult Folk Dance – 2 Nartan Group of Detroit (Michigan) First Prize, Adult Best Choreographer Raksha Dave, Adult Best costume Neha Patel, New Choreographer Sunita Narayana and New Choreographer Vrushank Shah and Sonam Mehta.
At the end of all performances, Chief Coordinator Jayesh Parikh remarked “FOGANA fosters dreams to help take its performers to new heights. FOGANA gives its participants self-confidence, motivation, a life time of friendships, and a spirit of comradeship by creating a huge network of friends. We hope to continue to foster the dreams that FOGANA can nurture. For sure, we would like to see many more individuals and teams participating in this competition in order to help keep the roots of our culture deeper and stronger.”
Dr. Bharat Barai stated that in his personal communications with last 4 American Presidents, he learned that they all highly value India as successful diaspora primarily due to rich family value, hard work and the importance of education. This type of cultural program infuses values of tradition and culture. He wished success to all participants now and in their future endeavors.
The program closing remarks were performed by Dr. Manish Pandya, GSC Cultural Secretary who thanked all participants acknowledging the time and dedication require to prepare for the FOGANA competition. He also personally thanked FOGANA for providing a platform for the younger generation to continue support of the Indian culture and heritage. Finally, Dr. Pandya initiated a round of applause to thank the committee members of the Gujarati Samaj of Chicago for their efforts in making the show possible closing with the phrase “we will we will raas you”.