Bhangra blasts off

The South Asian Society hosted a variety of cultural events this weekend in conjunction with the annual Bhangra Blowout dance competition.

The Saturday night event brought together team members from 10 universities across the country and about 4,000 audience members from around the world to D.A.R. Constitution Hall in D.C.

Bhangra is a form of traditional folk dance that originated in Punjab, India.

“We provide a central place for South Asian Americans across America. Everyone looks forward to spring for Bhangra Blowout,” said senior Sabi Chawla, Bhangra Blowout co-chair. “We are definitely an important part of promoting South Asian culture.”

Rutgers University in New Jersey won the $3,500 first prize. Although GW’s team took second place in the competition last year, the team did not win an award this year. Teams are judged on traditional nature of the dance, artistic elements and stunts, among other criteria.

Preeti Mehrotra, Bhangra Blowout public relations chair, said team members were “happy” with their performance.

“It went really well. Everything just pulled together, and all of the teams were amazing,” she said.

Chawla added that there were several freshmen on GW’s team this year. Bhangra teams usually have 16 members.

“GW’s team was really young this year, and you don’t know what to expect until you’ve done it before. I think they were just a young team, and they’ll do better next year,” Chawla said.

Mehrotra added that Bhangra Blowout is the “original bhangra competition” because it was the first inter-collegiate bhangra competition in the country.

The University of Michigan’s team, which traveled by car to D.C., took second place in the competition. Ambereen Rizvi, a member of the team, said she was “excited” to participate.

“The crowd, the energy, the location – this is definitely an event we look forward to,” she said.

The competition was surrounded by a weekend of events. H Street between 20th and 21st streets was closed off Saturday afternoon for the first Bhangra on the Block. Music blasted from speakers while performers danced and got the crowd riled up for the evening’s competition.

Some students also participated in a DJ spin-off contest and a dohl competition. A dohl is a type of Indian drum.

“This whole weekend is a lot of hype and this definitely helps build up the hype,” junior Harsha Jonna said.

Apache Indian was scheduled to be a featured musical performer, but was unable to attend the block party due to complications with obtaining the appropriate visa. Apache Indian’s music is described as traditional South Asian rhythms with a Western influence.

The South Asian Society also sponsored an Official Bhangra Blowout Party after the competition. About 1,500 people celebrated at the Old Post Office Pavilion.

Last year, Bhangra Blowout organizers experienced problems with some area clubs promoting “official” Bhangra Blowout after parties that had not been approved by Student Judicial Services.

“It’s such a touchy issue because people will refer to themselves as the Official Bhangra Blowout,” Mehrotta said. “We can’t control parties.

Student Judicial Services was unavailable for comment.

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