Weekly Features


IUSM community showcases talents with 23rd annual Evening of the Arts and a spring concert

Apr. 17, 2014

It was a "weekend of the arts" for IU School of Medicine students, staff and faculty April 12 to 13 with two public performances showcasing the musical and other artistic talents of the medical school community.

On April 12, IUSM members staged 18 different acts at the Madame C.J. Walker Theatre Center for the 23rd annual Evening of the Arts. The next morning, the IUSM Orchestra, which features musically talented IUSM students, faculty and staff, took the stage at the Indiana History Center for its 2014 Spring Concert. The orchestra also played a "preview" performance the night before at Evening of the Arts.

"Everyone looks forward to these events because they're a great chance to do the things we love and to share them with our fellow classmates and the community," said Sujaata Dwadasi, a fourth-year medical student and co-chair for the event. "We're usually so busy studying and serving clinical rotations; it's nice to get away from it all sometimes and show you've got other talents -- and see everyone else's too."

In addition to serving as a co-chair, Dwadasi is also a member of the Indian dance group who performed on Saturday. Indian dance has a long tradition at the Evening of the Arts, she said, with a new generation recruiting incoming students to the group every few years.

This year's dance was choreographed by Dwadasi with Tanya Devnani and Madhavi Singhal, all fourth-year medical students, who were joined by over 30 of their classmates from all years of their medical educations. The group also included several graduate students and a staff member, Jenny Bhupatkar. Dancers performed four styles of Indian dance: Bharatanatyam; Bhangra and Raas, which uses of sticks; plus the more modern "Bollywood" style.

"It's basically how we all met," said Dwadasi, who knew her fellow choreographers long before joining IU. She and Singhal, who grew up in Kokomo, Ind., and Devnani, of Carmel, Ind., are childhood friends, having spent years traveling to Indianapolis for dance classes and performances.

"We've been dancing together since elementary school," she said. "It's a pretty common thing to get into when you're younger, especially for girls. There's always been someone at the school who's done it before, or who catch on well enough that they feel confident leading the group for a few years. This year we'll be passing the torch yet again."

Other dance acts at this year's Evening of the Arts included hip-hop dance, performed by members of the local hip-hop scene at the invitation of Kurt Qing, an M.D./Ph.D. student, and the Bachata, a form of Latin dance first experienced by IUSM students during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. (Patricia Wade, Ph.D., of the Office of Medical Student Affairs, also joined the dancers in the performance.) Four rock-and-roll groups, an a cappella group, vocalists, piano and guitar soloists, a brass quartet and the orchestra rounded out the night.

The IUSM Orchestra's preview performance on Saturday featured selections from Stephen Sondheim's "West Side Story." The complete performance on April 13 featured not only the musical medley but also selections from "Academic Festival Overture" by Johannes Brahms; "Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21" by Ludwig van Beethoven and "The Laughing Song" from "Die Fledermaus" by Johann Strauss.

Senaka Ratnayake, a fourth-year medical student and trumpet player, and William McNiece, M.D., an associate professor of anesthesia and tuba player, are members of both the brass quartet and IUSM Orchestra.

"I pulled together the quartet specifically to perform a piece I wrote for EOTA (Evening of the Arts)," said Ratnayake, who holds an undergraduate minor in music theory. "It can be difficult to keep up with practice, but, simply put, I love music, so it works out."

Ratnayake also plays each year at an IUPUI alumni event at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. A common theme among the people who contribute to Evening of the Arts is a desire for a creative outlet amid medical school's busy days and longer nights spent studying.

"The first I participated in EOTA, I was really surprised -- and also proud -- to discover that our medical class is not only very smart, but they're also very talented," Dwadasi said. "It was also great because I really didn't know a lot of my classmates yet -- so I didn't know they were able to play instruments, or to dance and sing, or, in the case of the art auction, excel in the visual arts.

"It's really something that brings us closer and helps us to get to know everyone, and it makes you proud to know that you're part of a very talented group," she added.

The event also supports a cause. Each year proceeds raised from ticket sales, donations from local businesses and a silent auction of artistic works created by IUSM faculty, staff and students go to benefit free clinics across Indianapolis, including Wheeler Mission Ministries, Gennesaret Free Clinics, St. Thomas Clinic and the IU Student Outreach Clinic. This year's event raised more than $4,000 for these clinics.

"As medical students, we're always rotating through hospitals and seeing a diverse population, and a lot of us also volunteer at the free health clinics, so we really see the need," Dwadasi said. "It just feels right to be able to do things we love while also giving back to the community."

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