Bhangra Blowout packs auditorium

Almost 4,000 cheering fans packed a sold-out Constitution Hall Saturday night for the eighth annual Bhangra Blowout. The event, sponsored by GW’s South Asian Society, was the highlight of daylong festivities that drew students from around the world.

Organizers said that Bhangra Blowout, a competition featuring traditional Indian dances, was a great success. SAS sold more than 6,000 tickets for the event at 1776 D St., NW and the after-party at the Old Post Office building at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Proceeds from the events will aid victims of a January earthquake that struck northwestern India killing more than 30,000 people.

“Every year it runs well,” SAS President Tabith Awal said. “The day was a great success.”

A dance squad from the University of Maryland took home the top prize for the competition.

More than 300 people crowded onto the dance floor of the Hippodrome for a pre-party to listen to DJs, eat and socialize. Students and families waited in a long line in front of booths to have their bodies decorated with henna, Indian body-painting art that uses powdered paint.

“(Henna) is applied then rubbed off to create the traditional designs,” said Rena Surana, who sat decorating a student’s hand with the brown material. “It is something of a fad, it is really popular.”

Native to the Punjab region of northern India, Bhangra dance celebrates festive occasions including weddings, birthdays and Vaisakhi – the beginning of the harvest season. The dancers step to traditional songs, or boliyan, about love, family and satire. The 1980s witnessed a rebirth of Bhangra music, which incorporates elements of techno, rap, reggae and jungle beats.

Ten coed dance teams held the attention of the audience as they swirled and bounded across the stage in brightly colored costumes to elaborately choreographed moves. Three judges evaluated the competitors based on elements of tradition, including dress, movement and music. Also judged were artistic and technical components – team enthusiasm, stunts, creativity and choreography.

The audience exploded as the Maryland victory was announced and team members ran screaming triumphantly onstage to claim their trophy. The New York Institute of Technology was runner-up in the event for the second consecutive year.

“We had a great selection (of teams) to choose from,” said Avani Parekh, a GW senior and executive board member for the Bhangra Blowout. “I’ve never seen so much talent.”

The after-party event at the Old Post Office building also drew large numbers. Although the official receipts have not yet been tabulated, organizers said they predict a sizeable donation to the earthquake relief effort.

-Jane Smith contributed to this report.

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