Sixteen years ago, Bhangra Blowout brought an intimate group of dancers to Columbian Square to display their footwork. But things change.
Now one of the largest events of its type in the nation, Bhangra Blowout, the intercollegiate dance competition hosted by the South Asian Society, will take the stage at DAR Constitution Hall on Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m. Organizers expect a crowd of 4,000 to turn up for the event.
The competition will feature dance teams from Cornell, Drexel, Columbia, NYU and Northwestern in tradition Indian attire. GW Bhangra will perform as an exhibition act and will not compete, as they are the hosts of the competition.
“The teams that we choose are the most elite teams in the country,” said sophomore Madiha Malik, director of Bhangra Blowout. Malik organized the event with co-director Anugna Kasireddy, a senior. “We go through a rigorous process of selecting them,” Malik added.
The process, she said, included video auditions submitted to the University-based Bhangra Blowout board, who together went through 24 applications and chose the top 18 to perform at the event this weekend.
Bhangra originated from folk song and dance rituals celebrating the coming of spring and the harvest season, and has become the cornerstone of the South Asian Society’s social calendar.
Malik said audience members can expect to see detailed footwork and instrumental props like the sap, a wooden instrument snapped together with both hands, and the chimta, an instrument that claps together with bells that make a jingling sound. Rhythm is provided by the dhol, a two-sided drum, she added.
“One thing we’re trying to do this year is really reach out to the GW crowd,” she said. “Its happening right in D.C. It’s a completely student-run event.”
For this reason, she encourages students to attend Bhangra on the Block, a free party in University Yard held from noon to 4 p.m., prior to Bhangra Blowout. International musical guests include DJ Kayper, a performer from the United Kingdom known for her ability to blend hip-hop, reggae, soul, bhangra and Bollywood sounds, and Nindy Kaur, whose music fuses Bhangra influences with modern pop structures. Attendees will enjoy carnival games, freestyle Bhangra challenges, free food and the opportunity to win t-shirts and CDs.
The collegiate dance teams will be competing for a $3,000 prize, intended to fund their travel and costume needs as they continue to perform nationwide.
All proceeds from the event will benefit Pratham, a nongovernmental organization based in the Mumbai region of India, which provides education for underprivileged children, said Sohail Hasnain, the South Asian Society’s public relations director.
Bhangra Blowout will be held at DAR Constitution Hall on Saturday, April 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets run from $23 to $43 and are available through Ticketmaster.
-Amanda Pacitti contributed to this article.