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Binghamton University gets Bhangra Fever

Teams from around North America participate in fifth annual traditional Indian folk dance competition

The Osterhout Concert Theater came down with a case of Bhangra fever as 10 teams from cities across the U.S. and Canada performed their finest moves during the fifth year of the competition, hosted by Binghamton Bhangra.

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Janine Furtado/Assistant Photo Editor

Teams from cities all over North America drew gasps and cheers from the crowd as they showed off their signature styles on Saturday night. Two teams were all-female, while the rest were either all-male or co-ed.

Bhangra is a traditional Indian folk dance with roots tracing back to the Punjab region. The dancers are known for elaborate, vividly colored costumes, as well as the use of hinged wooden clapping instruments called “saaps” and decorated sticks called “khunda.”

Eight hundred audience members watched each team play a short video before their performance. Several teams incorporated the use of modern non-Indian steps, while others climbed upon shoulders to jump through banners, or performed a light show in the dark.

“It’s pretty amazing to see the cultural integration that takes place, and it’s impressive that Binghamton can bring in teams as far as California,” said Maggie Pictor, a senior double-majoring in Chinese and economics and a former member of the Bhangra team at Binghamton University.

This year’s first-place trophy went to First Class Bhangra, a team hailing from Pittsburgh, Pa. Judges based their decisions on components such as execution, stunts, synchronization, costumes, tradition elements and audience interest.

Avneet Gujral, a senior majoring in biology and the captain of Binghamton’s Bhangra team, said that planning for this year’s event took place immediately after last year’s show ended in early February.

“We start by booking the venue, and it’s difficult to find a date that accommodates most teams,” Gujral said.

The hardest part of organizing the event, according to Gujral, had to do with similar booking issues, like finding teams to compete and impartial judges to participate in the show. Forty-five teams applied to be in the contest, submitting video auditions as part of the application process. Of the 45 teams that sent in videos, 10 were chosen to compete.

“We are humbled,” said Veem Tambi, a member of the winning team. “Binghamton did a great job running the competition.”

Several non-Bhangra dance teams also performed during the show, including an all-female dance-fusion team from Cornell University and BU’s KASA MODA hip-hop group.