Oregon State University students and staff turned the Memorial Union Quad into the scene of a Bollywood film on Friday afternoon when more than 70 people participated in a flash mob dance in the middle of the quad.
The event, which was staged as a surprise during the annual Beaver Fair for students in the quad, drew a large crowd as the dancers tossed off their jackets to reveal bright orange shirts as they began to dance to the Bollywood song “Salaam-E-Ishq” from the movie by the same name.
Oregon State student Neha Neelwarne, a Bollywood instructor for Faculty/Staff fitness and a native of Mysore, India, organized and choreographed the dance and helped keep it a secret until Friday.
“Since October is Diversity Awareness Month I wanted to do something to celebrate diversity on campus, but also to encourage individuals to put some effort into learning something new about other experiences,” Neelwarne said. “What better way to achieve these goals than by doing a Bollywood Flash Mob?”
“Many OSU Students, staff, and faculty members with different backgrounds and experiences put in a lot of effort to learn the dance. Students who work at many different cultural centers at OSU also participated. I hope that every individual at OSU and the community will take an interest in learning about diversity after watching the flash mob – visiting the cultural and resource centers is a great first start!”
Neelwarne has spent the last two months training groups of dancers, most of whom had never performed publicly before, and some of whom had never even heard of Bollywood until they participated in the event.
Kevin Gatimu, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering from Kenya, was excited for the opportunity to participate.
“The Bollywood Flash Mob was not only a forum that hosted different facets of diversity, but it was a form of recreation too,” he said.
His brother Brian, a junior in biochemistry, biophysics, also participated.
“I wanted to be a part of this Indian dance because I personally take interest in cultures different from mine. Learning a cultural dance, in my view, is one of the best, fun and engaging ways to immerse yourself into one’s culture,” he said. “I challenge students out there to utilize the cultural centers in OSU in learning more about the diversity that is here in OSU.”
Oregon State University has made honoring and increasing diversity on campus a high priority. In Spring 2010, there were 3,274 Oregon State students who identified as U.S. minorities, an increase of 8.5 percent from the previous year. And international student numbers rose 30.7 percent, to 1,180 students. There are currently six cultural centers on campus which offer a variety of services to students, and which host campus-wide events throughout the year.