How Are DU Societies Tackling the Pangs of Missing out on Fests Semester?

Even semester is supposed to be very busy for all DU societies, with them competing against each other in the circuit and celebrating their art as the fests’ season dawns upon us. And though the pandemic has put a hold on many things, their indomitable spirit has not been diminished in times of difficulty as they continue to innovate and inspire.

The even semester is very special for all the college societies as it is the season of college fests. Everyone is excited for what the fests have in store for them, like great food, star night- and, of course, DJ night- but college society members are all the more energized and engaged in the months succeeding January. They participate in various events and competitions, travel with all their paraphernalia to different campuses, organize their own society fests, and hustle for sponsorships along with managing studies. The pandemic has made every student miss out on numerous experiences; however, the college societies, especially DU’s performing societies, have been hit much harder. They have been deprived of their treasure – the stage, which gives them the platform to showcase their talent, hard work, creativity, and love for their art.

Since all the major fests happen in even semesters, it is usually a little difficult for us to keep up with our studies. Most of the time, we had to leave classes for practice. Being on the stage with your team is the best feeling. The vibe we used to get from the audience made us feel more powerful and because of that, we gave our best. Winning was never our motto; being able to give joy to the audience through our dance made us move our feet. But because of the lockdown, all these things are missing. We used to get up early because our reporting time used to be 7 in the morning, no matter how far away you live. Even though we didn’t like waking up this early but I still miss these small things.

Prerna Bigamal, Core Committee member of CVS Zestreets, the Western Dance and Street Dance Society of College of Vocational Studies, told DU Beat.

Although they have been consistently working hard and transitioned to online platforms and sharing their art over various social media handles, it seems that the coming months of the even semester won’t provide them any respite. Long hours of practicing and going from one event to another are things that build cherishable memories and lifelong camaraderie.

Whenever we talk to each other, we reminisce that in usual circumstances, we would have been traveling to Noida or some other place, or waiting anxiously for the results, or getting a little sad if we were not selected, or staying back for our night stays. For a society, this time of the year is very important, and it seems that everything has stopped. These are difficult times, but we are still working. Especially, for a dramatics society, it is difficult to do everything online. We are not participating in any online competitions as such, but we are using our time to learn writing, exchanging ideas and views about shows, movies, and their aspects like direction, story, and acting. Talking about auditions, group discussion is an important criterion for selection. This time, as we did it online, we realized that many were not able to perform up to their full potential because of network issues, whom we tried to accommodate to the best of our abilities. We also accepted video submissions for various categories. It seems everything that usually spanned for several days in the open lawns of college has shifted and confined to one corner of my room, where my diary and laptop is kept. It is not fun at all!”

Vani Yadav, PR and Marketing Head (Street) of Anukriti, the Hindi Dramatics Society of Miranda House, sharing her thoughts with DU Beat.

Although many online competitions have been organized, they do not provide the same ambiance, and the judging criteria are also often vague and questionable.

For the societies in Delhi University, even semesters are really important considering the number of competitions and fests that happen during this time throughout the circuit. As a dance society, this is when we are able to put forward the production, which we work on for months. It gives us a different kind of exposure and helps us become better not only as dancers but also as individuals. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, all we get to take part in right now are the online competitions, which not only takes out all the fun from competitions but also are quite unfair as the judgement is significantly based on the number of likes, shares, comments and followers the participants can bring in to the respective social media handles of the organisers. This defeats the purpose of a dance competition, and we have vehemently opposed to this judgement criteria altogether and we hope that things change for good.

Now, to sustain the society during these unprecedented times, we have had discussions and sessions on the politics of dance. We organized sessions with Ma’am Sofia Salingaros and Ma’am Nitya Narasimhan to understand their views on several issues pertaining to classical dance in India. We have also choreographed certain dance covers which are uploaded on our social media handles. To conduct society auditions online is quite difficult. But, we are doing our best. We are asking for dance videos to figure out if one is eligible to join our society or not. However, since not everyone might be able to make the audition videos due to certain genuine reasons, we are trying to figure out some alternatives by talking to them personally, so that we can recruit deserving applicants.

The uncertainty about this year’s fests and competitions has been very troublesome but we will definitely be trying to bring out some creative content with respect to both folk and classical dance forms during this semester.

Nrityangana, The Indian Dance Society of Sri Venkateshwara College

Fests are also the time for newbies to experience the charisma of DU dramatics, dance, music, or photography circuits for the very first time.

For our society, the even semester is starting with the auditions for this academic year. The auditions got pushed this time because of the delayed admissions of the first years. Currently, we’re packed with this entire audition process. It’s all online this time. We conduct our auditions for acting and production separately. We’re trying our best to make the entire experience as close to what it would have been in normal circumstances. But again, since it’s entirely virtual, it’s a new experience for us as well! In terms of fests, there’s not much happening in the theatre space. Yes, some colleges are conducting online mono-acting competitions so, we are constantly on the lookout for such competitions and apply wherever it’s feasible for us. But it’s not what a usual theatre fest would be like. We had already decided on our scripts (home production and main production) for this year but unfortunately, there’s not much we can work on when it comes to the annual productions. But we’ve still tried our best to stay in touch with theatre — we worked on the home production script virtually and released videos on our IGTV that give a glimpse about the different characters of the play. Three of our members also wrote an original script during this period and we hope that we get to work on it and perform it soon. Having said that, being online and meeting new members so late has shifted the focus off of the lack of fests and towards team building, enjoying the little things about theatre – which is welcome, and necessary because when we ultimately get back to the stage we’ll be just as strong.

N Vaishnavi, Public Relations Head, The Ariels, The English Theatre Society of Miranda House.

It is clear that the lockdown and transition to the onlineverse have not diminished their spirits. Even though the uncertainty over fests is discouraging, the members are boosting each other’s morale through discussions and challenges. Auditions are also being conducted keeping in mind various technical and infrastructural issues. Their spirit and determination inspire all students how to get through yet another online semester – be there for each other and keep going on.

Also read – https://dubeat.com/2020/09/du-dance-societies-and-their-invincible-will-to-fight-the-pandemic/

Also read – https://dubeat.com/2020/12/the-online-stage-delhi-university-dramatics-societies-in-covid-19/

Featured Image Credits – Hitesh Kalra for DU Beat

Ipshika Ghosh