Number 56 on the list of 161 Things to Do at Cornell is to go see a Bhangra show. Saturday night many came and checked it off their list to Pao Bhangra XI. The event not only showcased Cornell homegrown acts but also had guest performers join in the dancing extravaganza. It was a spectacular show and a feast to the eyes to see the swirling explosions of color on stage as the performers broadcasted their talent and hours of dedication to the art.
Bhangra is a folk dance attributed to the Punjabi culture of India and Pakistan, first performed by farmers to celebrate harvests. It has now grown beyond the region and influenced other parts of the world, most notably the U.K., through its dance and music. The music blends traditional Indian music with elements of hip-hop, reggae and pop music. Cornell’s own Pao Bhangra boasts to be the largest Bhangra event in all of North America. Hosting acts from Yale, Princeton, the University of Maryland and Washington, D.C. as well as four acts from Cornell, Pao Bhangra exposed the fascinating dance to an energetic Barton Hall on Saturday. All eight Bhangra groups performed their sets with infectious energy. Guest performers Sitara and Yamatai were similarly impressive.
A group of Cornell alumni started off the show well, albeit slowly. Jashan Bhangra, a team from Yale, then ignited the stage wonderfully with its set. The performers’ moves were smooth, making the audience wonder how no performer bumped into another on stage (a wonder reiterated as each group came to the stage). Their traditional garb was also impressive. The bright colors were attention-grabbing and the moves kept the audience hooked. It was hard to fathom how any group could match Jashan Bhangra’s performance. Such a worry was quickly assuaged, however, as the teams that followed never failed to keep the energy and volume up. All of the visiting teams, however, seemed to be eclipsed by the home teams.
The all-girls team Kudiyan performed with extremely fluid motions; their moves were dainty but filled with enthusiasm and rigor. This performance was followed by an exquisite one by all-boys team Mundey. With a set list that included Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” and LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” the performers had the audience eating out of the palm of their hand.
Cornell’s Sitara also charmed the audience with a highly cohesive group performance. Yamatai’s drum performance literally reverberated through all of Barton, making the audience’s skin tingle in minute aftershocks after the drummers’ turn.
Cornell’s mixed dance group concluded the show. Their strong sense of family was evident in the loving words said about their graduating senior members. They excited the audience one last time in a set that left the audience wanting more. As their captain energised the audience with an onslaught of what could be considered a mini-rap at the beginning, the team gave a larger-than-life performance to close the show.
Overall, the night was mesmerizing with upbeat music and dance that shared the love of Bhangra with a mixed audience of already established enthusiasts and those new to the scene. Not only did the teams do an amazing job, the emcees also performed commendably. Their chemistry, as they plugged “ads” for sponsors, held the audience’s attention during breaks. Albeit slightly cheesy at times, the “ads” still made the audience chuckle.
For those who did not have the pleasure of seeing Pao Bhangra XI, make sure to check it off your list next year. Be prepared to be blown away by talented teams from Cornell and elsewhere and fall in love with a new dance sure to infiltrate the party scene … or at least it should.