South Asian students celebrate bhangra

The all-male dance team from Johns Hopkins University captured this year’s first place trophy and the $2,500 grand prize Saturday at GW’s seventh annual Bhangra Blowout, one of the biggest South Asian student events in North America.

The event, held at a sold-out Constitution Hall, included 12 universities from across the country that competed as folk musicians and dancers in the genre bhangra.

Bhangra originated in the village region of Northern India and Pakistan known as Punjab, organizers said.

First-year competitor New York Institute of Technology was chosen as the runner-up.

I’ve never seen a school come out of nowhere (like we did), said NYIT graduate student and team member Ketan Vora. Runner-up was more than we expected.

All the Hopkins team could utter after its win was a collective awesome. GW freshman audience member Anisha Dua echoed the winning team’s comments, adding, Everything was on time and perfect.

The GW team, who won last year’s competition, did not place this year. A few mishaps cost GW the judge’s vote, sophomore team member Vishal Sitapara said.

But the audience had a good time, and that’s the most important thing, he said.

The vibrant rainbow of teams that danced across the stage Saturday occasionally mixed traditional bhangra with hip-hop and techno beats and, in some cases, incorporated drum solos, prop swords and, of course, bhangra sticks in their acts. Some schools, including Georgetown and Cornell universities, utilized their school mascots in their performances, while Temple University displayed a school banner during their finale.

Before the first- and second-place teams were acknowledged, Vikram Bakhru, president of the GW Indian Students’ Association, was presented with the second South Asian Society Scholarship for his academics, leadership and commitment to the South Asian community. The SAS Scholarship is the only student endowment at GW, said presenters SAS Treasurer Sonia Arora and Ami Shah, a member of the Bhangra Blowout Public Relations Committee.

From the continued success of Bhangra Blowout, the South Asian Society of GW will have donated a total of $75,000 to the endowment fund after this year and members said they hope that it will eventually blossom into a full tuition scholarship, according to the program distributed at the event.

The show opened with a reading of a proclamation from the office of District Mayor Anthony Williams.

I, the mayor of the District of Columbia, do hereby proclaim April 1, 2000, as `Bhangra Blowout’ in Washington, D.C., according to the proclamation read by a representative of the mayor’s office.

The mayor encouraged D.C. residents to join me in celebrating this festive event.

This year Bhangra Blowout included Bhangra on the Quad, a party held the afternoon before the competition. The Quad was alive with students from the visiting schools who were offered free authentic South Asian food, free mendhi and special live performances.

The event began in 1994 to raise money for the Asian Women’s Self-Help Association, which works to help female South Asian victims of domestic violence. ASHA has been a consistent beneficiary of Bhangra Blowout and other local charities will also receive donations this year.

Hosts of the show, GW students Neil Badlani and Roger Kapoor, supplemented the acts with small comedy bits, including The Bhangra News, and The Bhangra Brothers.

The Indian multinational record company Rukus Avenue, Anix Vyas, The Human Beatbox, and South Asian dance act The Lollipop Kids also performed.

Penn State University, George Mason University, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and Northeastern University were among the competitors Saturday night. Teams sent videotapes of their acts to the GW South Asian Society to get chosen for the competition.

Previous GW Bhangra Blowouts have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, India Today and India Abroad.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.