Dancers dazzle at 17th annual Bhangra Blowout

Eight Indian dance teams from across the country brought the D.A.R. Constitution Hall stage to life Saturday night at the Bhangra Blowout competition hosted by GW’s South Asian Society.

This year marked the 17th anniversary of the competition, which has grown to be one of the largest intercollegiate Bhangra competitions in the country. Bhangra is a lively traditional Indian dance that originates from the Punjab region of India.

“This year we also had many more people,” sophomore Shaun Vaid said. “The orchestra seating was filled more than at Bhangra Blowout 16.”

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Bhangra Blowout partnered with Saavn Mobil – which, according to its website, is the largest distributor of Bollywood media – to allow audience members to vote for their favorite competing Bhangra Blowout team and exhibition act using their cell phones. Each team was assigned a special code and during the competition, the performing team’s code was flashed up on a screen.

Virginia Commonwealth University came in first for the third year in a row and brought home a check for $4,000. University of Virginia won $2,500 for its second place finish. Drexel University won the “Best Dressed” title and third place overall, taking home $1,000.

“I really liked UVA,” Vaid said. “Their performance was much more modern. They didn’t win, but it was still entertaining.”

The GW Bhangra team did not compete but, as the host, performed an exhibition number. Other exhibition performances included DCBC, an independent, all-girls Bhangra team from the D.C. Metro area, D.C. Metropolitan Punjabi Arts Academy and Capital Funk.

Competitors included teams from Virginia Commonwealth University, New York University, Rutgers University, Drexel University, Cornell University, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and University of Rochester.

The Bhangra Blowout competition raised money for two charities: Nanubhai Education Foundation, an initiative to provide education to India’s rural public high schools, and Sikhcess, a worldwide community service-based organization that creates public service opportunities with the goal of enhancing quality of life for all humankind.

The performers bounced to the rhythmic beats of the songs and used dance props such as the saap, a wooden instrument snapped together with both hands, and the chimta, an instrument that claps together with bells to create a jingling sound.

A special performance by Rhythm Dhol Bass, Nindy Kaur and Mitch Hyare created a remarkable sensation on stage. This performance led people to dance in the aisles. The performers – who have performed with Snoop Dogg – blended Western genres with traditional Punjabi beats and vocals.

Last year the Student Association Finance Committee denied the organization’s request for funding and left it to scramble last-minute for contributions from various corporate sponsors. This year, the SA cosponsored the event.

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