Wisconsin College Students will Dance for Change

Madison, Wisconsin, is a pretty traditionally American Midwestern town. Named after the United States’ fourth president, the city is home to a bratwurst festival professed to be the world’s largest, a sizable producers-only farmer’s market and tens of thousands of college students.
For one weekend in April, however, Madison will also serve as mecca to Indian dance enthusiasts across the nation.
ADZ Entertainment, a student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, organizes the weekend-long dance competition centered on two quintessential Indian dance styles, Bollywood-Fusion and Bhangra. In it’s fifth year, the competition has proven an extremely popular event for the organization. This year’s co-chairs, Keerthana Pittala and Khushboo Patel, decided to translate that popularity into philanthropy by partnering with Commit to Change.
“We hope to raise awareness about the education of girls in India because the art, Bollywood-Fusion and Bhangra, is such a big part of Indian culture,” Pittala said. “We can bring the community together through cultural awareness.”
Patel added, “This is the first year that we’re trying to develop this partnership with a nonprofit. Everyone on the (ADZ) board loves Indian culture and the dancing, so this is just a way to give back.”
Both women were born in India but have received the bulk of their education in the U.S.; Pittala and her family moved to America when she was 5 years old, and Patel’s family moved to Chicago when she was in middle school. Although Patel was fortunate to go to a private school in India, one difference she has noticed between her experiences in India and the U.S. is the varying standards of sexual health education.
“In India, and from my personal experiences with my family, sex ed is not something you talk about in the open,” Patel, who now works in a sexual health clinic, said. “People talk about it more openly here compared to the Indian culture and background I grew up in. I don’t think I ever had a sex ed class in India. Here in high school, they try to tech you the basics at least.”
As a psychology and neuroscience double major and aspiring healthcare professional, she believes access to comprehensive education is crucial to making Indian girls informed of their options.
“Education makes them aware of the choices they have and helps them to analyze those choices so the can make decisions for themselves and don’t have to rely on others to make them aware of what resources and choices are available to them,” she said.
Pittala, who has visited a C2C-sponsored orphanage, the Center for Social Services in Hyderabad, believes providing stable living environments is imperative to the mission of girls’ education.
“The biggest factor for change is providing a home for the girls and an environment in which they are comfortable and able to focus on their studies without having to worry about money or health or where they’re going to be sleeping of the night,” she said. “I think taking those stressors out of their life gives them a chance to really concentrate on their education and look to the future rather than looking only to the next day.”

Pittala’s mother is herself a highly educated Indian woman; despite an early interest in medical school, she ultimately got her Masters in Hindi literature and language. Her love for the sciences, however, was passed on to her daughter.
“I think the biggest influence she has had on me is that she really encouraged me to go into the sciences because it’s such an interesting field,” Pittala, who is currently studying neuroscience and studio art, said. “She emphasized that I should concentrate on my career and my education for as much of my life as possible so that I can have financial independence and enjoy my career when I grow older.”
Recognizing their privilege in growing up with supportive parents, ADZ Entertainment’s competition will benefit girls in India who are growing up without this advantage. All proceeds will benefit C2C.  
The event is April 2nd from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Shannon Hall Memorial Union. General admission tickets, soon to be sold via ADZ’s website, are $10. 

ritten by: Liv McConnell