The Bhangra Competition: Dancing With the Stars Meets Bollywood

Categories: Culture

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What do you get when you cross Dancing With the Stars, downtown Miami and Bollywood? The first-annual Bhangra Competition, that's what.

While salsa may be the dance and music of choice of the Magic City, the rest of the world has gotten hip to all things Punjab; Bhangra is the percussion-heavy, high-energy craze that hails from India. On Saturday night at the Gusman Theater downtown, teams from 10 colleges from as far away as British Columbia swayed, danced and shimmied to the music. It was like a Bollywood movie come to life: the women wore colorful veils and the men wore turbans.

Everyone seemed to be dressed in combinations of pink and purple, blue and yellow, red and gold. Some danced, while others did backflips and a few played traditional Indian instruments and sang live. To the new Bhangra lover (which would be me) the performances seemed a little frenzied at first, a riot of color and sound. But everyone grinned while dancing, and it was difficult not to be happy while watching the groups dance.

For some, like Varun Tewari, who was competing for the first time for FIU's Bhangra team, it was a bit overwhelming. "It's gonna be a tough comeptition," said Tewari, who was dressed in an impressive-looking blue and gold ensemble.

University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, FIU and the University of Florida all offered impressive teams, but the top price -- $2,000 -- went to a group from the University of California at Davis. At the end of the show, Bikram Singh (http://www.myspace.com/bikrams) got up and sang a few songs. He's a Punjabi by way of New York, probably most famous for collaborating with Panjabi MC (who also collaborated with Jay-Z).

To hear a sample of Bhangra music, check out Singh's MySpace page, or try the site of DJ Rekha, who has recently released a disc called Basement Bhangra, based on the popular party at SOB's in New York City. -- Tamara Lush


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