Oregon students dance to Bollywood tunes

Washington: It was a surprise well wrapped. The Oregon State University turned the Memorial Union Quad into a scene from a Bollywood movie when more than 70 students and staff members 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, drew a huge crowd as the dancers tossed off their jackets to reveal bright orange shirts and began dancing to the title track of Hindi film `Salaam-E-Ishq`.

The dance was organised and choreographed by Oregon State student Neha Neelwarne, a Bollywood instructor for Faculty/Staff fitness and a native of Mysore. She kept the event a secret until Friday, the university said in a statement.

"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.

Neelwarne 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.

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 US minorities, an increase of 8.5 per cent from the previous year.

And international student numbers rose 30.7 per cent, 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.