NU Bhangra wins national competition, looks ahead to championship

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NU Bhangra wins national competition, looks ahead to championship

Source: Rohan Savoor

Source: Rohan Savoor

Source: Rohan Savoor

Keerti Gopal, Reporter

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For the first time in three years, Northwestern Bhangra celebrated a first-place victory at a national competition and is gearing up for the collegiate championship.

NU Bhangra is a co-ed student group that performs bhangra, a style of dance that originated in the folk traditions of Punjab, India, and has become popular across the United States. On March 31, the dance team won first prize at the Crossroads of Bhangra contest at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

This weekend, the team will travel to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for Bhangra Blowout, which team president Rohan Savoor said is one of the most important competitions in the bhangra circuit.

“Bhangra Blowout is recognized as the collegiate championship,” the Weinberg junior said. “If you are accepted into Blowout, that means you are one of the top teams that are competing at the collegiate level.”

To enter competitions like Bhangra Blowout and Crossroads of Bhangra, collegiate teams from across the country apply with videos of their routines, Savoor said. Each competition is run independently and the results are unconnected, but Savoor said Bhangra Blowout is the most difficult to get into.

Co-captain Akshay Goyal said bhangra competitions have been a highlight of his time at Northwestern, adding that they bring team members together.

“There’s no better crash course on getting to know people than spending three days, every waking hour with them,” the Weinberg junior said. “Those are things you don’t forget.”

Savoor said Crossroads of Bhangra presented a particular challenge because it took place during the last weekend of Spring Break, when the team wasn’t together to practice. But being off campus didn’t prevent the team from adhering to a demanding rehearsal schedule, he added, noting that team members were asked to practice the routine every day and send videos to the team captains for feedback.

At the competition, NU Bhangra performed an eight-minute set choreographed by co-captains Goyal and Abhinav Talwar, a Weinberg third-year. Yasmine Diara, who has been on the team since her freshman year, noted that the intensity of the dance form makes performing an exercise in endurance.

“You kind of just black out for eight minutes,” the Weinberg junior said. “You don’t have time to think about anything, you’re just running on pure adrenaline. … There is no better feeling than successfully finishing an eight-minute set.”

Earlier this year, NU Bhangra competed in Nashville, Tennessee, where they came in fourth. They will travel to California later this spring for one last competition.

Savoor said the team’s competitive success is not the only thing that is new this year. When he first joined, he said, members of the team represented a more limited range of majors and were mostly of South Asian descent. However, the team has become more academically and ethnically diverse over the years, which Savoor said is an asset to the group.

“We understood as a team that your ethnic identity comes second to your dancing ability,” Savoor said. “It’s really nice when we can see someone who isn’t part of our culture actually trying to embrace it … so we were really excited that our team has become more ethnically diverse.”

Savoor added that students with backgrounds in other forms of dance, like ballet or hip-hop, bring unique perspectives and skills to the team’s creative pursuits. In addition to increased diversity, Diara said the team’s culture has become more inclusive and welcoming of new members since she joined.

Facing a quick turnaround from celebrating their recent win, the 15 members of NU Bhangra have spent the week rehearsing for Bhangra Blowout, which will be held on April 7.

“We’re going in as kind of the underdog,” Savoor said. “We honestly have our work cut out for us but I really think that we are just going to go and give it our best shot … and we’ll get the outcome we deserve.”

Twitter: @keerti_gopal