Bhangra in the Burgh sweeps the city
The pulse of drums, Indian rhythms, and techno beats filled the air of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall this past Saturday for the sixth annual Bhangra in the Burgh competition. Nearly 2,500 people filled the space to watch bhangra teams from across North America dance to win.
The event was highly anticipated, as its organizers had been advertising and tabling for over a month before the competiton. “The planning process for BIB6 began before the academic year with countless man hours being spent on the event. The level of organization was very impressive,” said first-year statistics major and operations committee member Vinay Viswanathan.
The competition showcased eight bhangra teams, each of which was introduced with a video that gave a preview of the team’s members and core values. The competing teams were: First Class Bhangra, UVA Di Shaan, Virginia Tech Bhangra, Cal Bhangra, GMU Bhangra, Toronto Allstar Girls, Cornell Bhangra, and UNC Bhangra Elite.
Each team brought great talent to the stage, making for an impressive, powerful event that kept the audience pumped. Whenever a team was announced, the yells and cheers of that team’s fans could be heard loud and clear. But despite the competition, the atmosphere remained friendly; the teams recognized that they were not only competing against each other, but also promoting the art of bhangra, and were supportive and respectful of the other teams.
The show included other non-bhangra dance groups, as well as Carnegie Mellon’s own South Asian all-male a cappella group, Deewane. Carnegie Mellon’s Tanah and DS Company and Point Park University’s Impulse provided a look into the world of hip-hop and artistic dance, a good change of pace from the competitive bhangra.
When Carnegie Mellon’s bhangra team took the stage, the excitement in the air was palpable: This was what many had come for. The team staged a lively performance, which was made even more exciting when all of the nonperforming members and alumni, dressed in bhangra team jackets, joined the performers on stage. With the stage filled, Carnegie Mellon Bhangra provided a passionate ending to the evening.
Comedian Dan Nainan kept the energy up by amusing the audience between acts. Although Nainan’s sense of humor occasionally leaned toward the racially offensive, his charm and wit were effective in transitioning from act to act.
The show ran smoothly with few technical glitches. The colorful lighting and the loud pulse of the music made the event feel more like a concert than a dance competition. During admission, audience members were able to keep themselves fueled for the excitement of the second half by purchasing inexpensive samosas.
There were five judges for the event, but audience members could also vote for their favorite team to win the People’s Choice Award by voting on the event’s webpage. Unfortunately, by the time the results were announced, many people in the audience had already left. Cal Bhangra, Cornell Bhangra, and the Toronto Allstar Girls took the first, second, and third spots respectively, while UNC Bhangra Elite took the People’s Choice Award.
All proceeds of Bhangra in the Burgh 6 went to Variety the Children’s Charity of Pittsburgh, which provides custom bicycles for disabled children. Charles LaVallee, a member of the Variety team and a Carnegie Mellon graduate, showed a video of a mentally disabled man first learning to ride a bike. He discussed how important something as simple as learning to ride can be for both kids and their families. His speech served as a reminder that nothing should be taken for granted.
Overall, the event was an enlightening and enjoyable cultural experience. “I came out wanting to do Bhangra. I’d definitely go again next year,” said first-year biology major Myriam Bejjani.