A crowd of 2,600 packed the stands of Barton Hall on Sunday night to see the largest student run show on Cornell’s campus — Pao Bhangra. With one of the largest crowds in the show’s history, this is the eighth year in a row that it has been held on the Cornell campus. The biggest exhibition of its kind in America, the annual event brings Bhangra teams from around the country to partake in the show. This years’ performance included routines from the Rochester Kids Bhangra, NYU Bhangra, Lalkaare Sheran De, DCBC Girls, USC Jachdi and Cornell’s own Mundey men’s team, Kudiyan women’s team, Alumni All Stars and Mixed Team. Harman Singh Narula ’09, Co-President and Pao Bhangra Director, and Arjun Banerjee ’10 emceed the show, guiding the crowd through high-energy folk dancing from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
Several groups stood out as the most impressive of the night. The showcase opened with a performance from the Rochester team, featuring several dancers who were under the age of five years. These youngsters definitely knew how to dance, busting out moves that most Cornell students only dream of pulling off in the middle of the Dino’s dance floor. Next, the NYU performance electrified Barton, as the dancers’ contagious enthusiasm spread throughout the audience. The DCBC Girls also put on a noteworthy routine, being one of the two women’s teams invited to Pao Bhangra.
In the midst of so many wonderful performances, the Big Red teams clearly stole the show. Cornell Bhangra thrilled the crowd, reinforcing why their events are so popular on the Cornell campus. Kudiyan, the Cornell women’s team, have placed in every competition they have attended this year. The team started their routine with one dancer standing atop another, marking the beginning of a larger than life performance. Blending Bhangra folk music with the Disney classic “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” Kudiyan’s performance was definitely trophy worthy.
The men’s Mundey team put on the most energetic and complex performance of the evening. Dressed in yellow, pink and red costumes, the 12 dancers shocked and awed the audience with their amazing choreography and wonderful stage presence.
A special treat during the show was a performance from Big Red Raas. Like Bhangra, Raas is a traditional folk dance, originating from the western state of Gujarat. Twirling green and orange Dhandia (wooden sticks), the audience went wild for Big Red Raas’ choreography. Extremely impressive were the moves during which the men would flip the women over their backs. To close the performance, the dancers spelled out “Cornell” with their bodies, to which the crowd went wild.
Starting Sunday morning, Cornell Bhangra alums came together in Ithaca to choreograph and rehearse their Cornell Alumni All Star performance. Together, the 13 alumni were able to produce a sound eight-minute routine in less than twelve hours. While the All Stars were not as polished as the Cornell teams that practice seven days a week and four hours a day, the excitement the alumni felt in returning to Barton’s stage made their performance unforgettable.
The final act of the night was from the Cornell Mixed team. Just two weeks prior, the team placed in the Bhangra Blowout, one of the largest Bhangra competitions in the country. With seven graduating seniors on the team, the final performance of the semester was bittersweet. Co-Presidents Narula and Nevin Sharma ’09 addressed the audience before taking the stage, crediting Bhangra as one of the reasons that they loved their time at Cornell. Blowing kisses to the audience, Narula and his fellow seniors performed for the last time as Cornell students, ending their Cornell Bhangra careers with a bang.
Not even the most heartfelt “BRRUAAAAHH!” could capture the essence of Pao Bhangra VIII. Colorful costumes, intricate dance moves and passionate performances made the evening unforgettable. Sunday’s performance definitely proved that Pao Bhangra is a must-see performance on the Cornell campus.