Dance group ‘Let’s Nacho’ spreads South Asian culture

Saumya Arya ’23, Dhriti Swarup ’23 and Yash Patel ’23 sensed a lack of South Asian representation in Vassar’s arts scene. Overlooking any disparities in skill level, the three friends formed a dance group based on a mutual love of Bollywood. Courtesy of Let's Nacho

Vassar is known for its arts. As evident in the filled-to-the-brim Art 105 lecture hall, the nine different a cappella groups or just student fashion, aesthetics are important to students, who use various artistic media to express their creativity. However, up until this semester, there was no Bollywood dance organization on campus, a void that Saumya Arya ‘23, Dhriti Swarup ’23 and Yash Patel ’23 were excited to fill. The result of this collaboration was Let’s Nacho, Vassar’s new Bollywood dance org. 

I sat down with co-heads Arya, Swarup and Patel to talk more about Let’s Nacho and their experience with the org in their short time together so far. Sandwiched in-between Arya and Swarup on Arya’s bed, with Patel on the rug below, it instantly became clear to me that they are a close-knit, hardworking and passionate team. Like many groups of friends, they mocked and teased each other—all from a place of love, of course—and were clearly unified by their common passion. Much of our conversation was filled with laughter, but their answers were serious and heartfelt. When asked why they decided to start a Bollywood dance org at Vassar, Patel answered, “I feel like people have tried many times before, but it hasn’t been a pre-org ever … And South Asians now have a place on campus, if they’re interested in dance.” Swarup added, “And because we couldn’t live without Bollywood dance!” to which Arya replied, “I swear, it’s the best thing on earth.” 

I approached our conversation eager to discover the significance of the name “Let’s Nacho.” Swarup explained, “‘Nacho’ basically means ‘dance’ in Hindi and we used ‘Let’s Nacho’ as a pun … English [speakers] don’t know the meaning of ‘nacho,’ but [they think of] food, [so] our poster has three nachos forming a dancing figure.” Swarup was right, as I had previously associated the group’s name with the food. Once explained, however, I realized the cleverness of its double meaning. 

The trio quickly discovered the difficulty of creating choreography. Swarup explained, “We have to first listen to the music and get used to the whole tune and the beats.” Arya interjected, “We’re already used to it—we choose songs we love.” In a later conversation, Arya explained that she and Swarup will often choreograph partner dances in two phases. First, they’ll choreograph the entire dance for the female dancer, using Patel to test out the steps. Then, they’ll go back and choreograph his half of the dance, to complement his partner’s moves. The end result is an original performance from start to finish, created by the co-heads and performed in beautiful kurtas to vibrant Bollywood music. 

The co-heads made it clear that no experience is necessary to join the org, and that they welcome anyone interested in learning Bollywood dance. Arya joked, “[Yash] is our co-president and he doesn’t know how to dance.” Both Arya and Swarup, on the other hand, have both danced for 14 years. This wide range of experience among the leaders reflects the ethos of the group: It doesn’t matter if you have danced for most of your life or none of it; the sole requirement for joining Let’s Nacho is interest and a willingness to try something new. The org currently has around 12 dancers and welcomes new members. Swarup explained, “It will expand because it’s just started.” “Yeah, and a lot of people don’t even know we exist,” added Arya. “We now have $150 to fund good food for our meetings, so people should come.” 

The trio’s genuine interest in getting their peers excited about South Asian culture was evident when I asked them about their most rewarding experience with the org. “After [Kaleidoscope] everyone was really happy, and people who were non-South Asian were telling their parents about it. Some of them even wanted to take Hindi as a class because of it,” Patel reflected. “So I feel like we did our job…making people passionate about Bollywood.” 

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