One of the team’s songs at the Bhangra Blowout April 3 said “what we need in this place is more bass.” But the Bhangra Blowout didn’t lack anything. It had amazing music, colorful dress and remarkable dancing. And to top it off, GW’s team won first place in the 12-team competition.
Bhangra Blowout is a dance competition sponsored by the South Asian Society (SAS) student group. The event began in spring 1994. Considered to be the largest intercollegiate South Asian student event in the country, Bhangra Blowout is immensely popular. This year SAS sold out Constitution Hall, which seats more than 3,700 people.
While the event is fun, Bhangra Blowout has a larger purpose. Proceeds from the competition go toward creating a South Asian scholarship and raise money for the Asian (Women’s) Self-Help Association (ASHA), a local group that helps South Asian women who are the victims of domestic violence and other forms of abuse.
This year, GW won $1,000 for its first-place finish. The team donated its winnings to ASHA. The runner-up was the team from Johns Hopkins University, which took home a $500 prize.
Twelve teams competed in this year’s Bhangra Blowout, including schools as close as the University of Maryland and as far away as the University of North Carolina and Case Western Reserve University.
The show also included two special acts: Penn Marsala, a Hindi a cappella group, and Ek Dunyia: One World, a women’s dance ensemble.
Teams were judged by a panel of members from the local South Asian community. In determining the winner, judges awarded points based on their music, dress, dance techniques, traditionalism of their act and a few other factors. Teams had nearly eight minutes to perform for the panel. If a group exceeded the time limit, it lost 20 points from each judge.
Bhangra Blowout is amazing to watch, especially for someone not familiar with South Asian customs or traditions. Bhangra is a style of music that originated in the Punjab region of India, according to SAS. The music consists of singing and heavy beats provided by traditional Indian drums called dhol, dholaki and the tabla. Teams also incorporated techno music, giving the usually formulaic club music an exotic feel.
Bhangra dancing is intricate and physically challenging, as teams jump and move quickly to the beats. Many teams also performed stunts such as lifting up team members and twirling them or creating human pyramids. Some of the more daring teams did an elaborate pinwheel-type move in which five or six members would link arms and swirl, often coming off the stage.
All of the dancers wore colorful dress – bright oranges, reds, purples and blues. Some groups took a more modern approach, using glow sticks and rings, the kind you’d expect to see at a local rave. The team from Johns Hopkins University even created a style of “gangsta” Bhangra, appearing on stage in sweats and hooded sweatshirts to resemble members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The competition moved at a quick pace, never allowing the energy in Constitution Hall dissipate. Often, the audience would get up and dance along with the teams. Bhangra Blowout is perfect for those who love dancing and music, or for people who just want to have a good time.