East Meets West take home four first-place prizes

For most of Laurier’s population, this past Monday had little significance. But for 200 students, the day marked their return to the university after achieving something unprecedented and remarkable.

Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union campus club East Meets West competed this weekend in the national South Asian Alliance Culture Show (SAACS) at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, leaving with an unprecedented four first-place finishes.

Performing in front of more than 5,000 people, East Meets West senior advisor Amit Tandon explained that for those involved, their victory was “larger than the Vanier Cup”, referring to the Laurier football team’s national win in 2005.

The competition is the largest of its kind in all of North America, allowing student teams across the country to compete with dances in the genres of classical, Bhangra, Bollywood and hip-hop fusion.

The group not only won first place overall, but also nabbed victories in the categories of best dance, best classical and best artistic direction, beating out teams from large universities like the University of Toronto, York University, McMaster University and their biggest rivals, the University of Waterloo.

“It’s the first time Laurier’s ever won at such a big competition. We were speechless, the whole team,” said East Meets West vice-president of finance, as well as dancer and choreographer Vishal Handa.

While the group is ecstatic about their victory, Tandon explained that the biggest disappointment has been the lack of recognition East Meets West has garnered at the university, even with their impressive success.

“We’ve received a lot of outside recognition but we haven’t received a lot of on-campus recognition,” said Tandon.

“It’s unfortunate that it was not until we brought home a trophy that anybody has noticed us. People thought, ‘Oh are those those little Indian kids practicing in the Concourse?’ The answer is yes, we were representing Laurier.”

While most universities at the competition had their dean of students out to support them, Laurier’s David McMurray was not present; Tandon noted that only individuals from WLUSU campus clubs made it out to the show.

He added that over the year the group was treated like a nuisance, often being asked to turn off their music in the Concourse and forced to move their hundred-pounds of set materials off campus.

“We practiced outside using flashlights. We’ve walked several pounds of material away from campus,” said Tandon, noting that the group often practiced until four in the morning to make their dance perfect.

“This is four years in the making. It didn’t happen overnight,” he continued.

While the journey to their victory was not an easy one, Tandon explained that their success has helped prove the importance of perseverance.

“We did it to prove that there is a small group of students who were passionate,” he said.

“There were a lot of hurdles we had to jump, like production on campus and funding. We made all of our failures into successes.”

Despite the difficult journey to this victory since the creation of East Meets West in 2003, Tandon noted that was well worth the effort.

And once the results were announced, the group was awarded two large trophies that they put to good use after the show.

“They’re bigger than the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup holds I think 17 beers this holds about 30 beers. We actually broke the other one trying to open it up for alcohol purposes,” Tandon laughed.