March 13, 2006

Pao Bhangra V Rocks Barton

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Pao Bhangra V sold out this Saturday night when over 2,000 Bhangra enthusiasts packed Barton Hall to get their share of “Bruahh!” Now in its fifth year, the event showcased seven Bhangra teams from all over the country, in addition to Cornell’s men’s, women’s, mixed and alumni teams. Fans were also treated to two special guest performances by Absolute Zero Break-dance Club and the Dhol Beats Punjabi drumming group.

Perhaps most noteworthy in terms of the show’s success was the crowd diversity that Pao Bhangra drew. President Amy Newhouse ’06 explained the wide appeal of Bhangra. “Being the first non-Indian president of Cornell Bhangra, I can completely understand how the crowd at Pao Bhangra is so diverse. Bhangra excites anyone with a pulse, in my opinion. Many people come to college never having heard of Bhangra, so being presented with a new dance form filled with energy and tradition is intriguing.”

The uniqueness of Pao Bhangra resides in the fact that there is no other event like it. “Most shows are competitions; that’s what makes Pao Bhangra different. All the teams come purely for the joy of performing to a great crowd,” said Newhouse. The visiting teams are chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis – registration is open to all teams, and the first seven to register are given spots in the show. This year’s lineup included Hopkins Hareepa, Harvard Bhangra, Geneseo Bhangra, Virgina Commonwealth University Bhangra, Syracuse Orange Bhangra, New York City Jugni and Brick City Bhangra from New Jersey. According to Abhinav Koul ’07, treasurer of Cornell Bhangra, the show’s uniqueness is also present in its performers, “This year’s teams all had different styles, and they brought something unique to the stage in their performances, which really got the crowd going.”

Vice President Gunisha Singh ’06 expressed enthusiasm of the success of Pao Bhangra. “Pao Bhangra started at Cornell in 1998 specifically to promote a non-competitive atmosphere. It’s great to see how it has grown since then. When it started, we had only four visiting teams, and this year we had ten teams send in registration packets.”

Many fans came to the show to enjoy the energetic dancing and support friends on Cornell’s Bhangra team. “I was drawn to the show because Bhangra is so energizing and exciting to watch. The crowd gets really pumped up, and it shows how many people at Cornell support each other,” says Amy Jaffe ’07, who attended Pao Bhangra last year, as well. “I like seeing the people I know showing their passions,” she added.

Rachel Schell-Lambert ’07, who also attended Pao Bhangra last year, was impressed by the guest acts this year, “I think having Dhol Beats was a great addition to the show. Those guys are amazing and definitely play with style.”

Brightly colored gold-embroidered costumes, dancers swinging swords while on top of team members’ shoulders and teams with younger children made the event a true sight. The energy of each team’s members was apparent in each team’s sharp body movements, high jumps and smiling faces.

Traditionally, the music, accessories and dance of Bhangra can be traced back to village life in the state of Punjab in Northern India, and the dance itself was performed to celebrate the arrival of the harvest. Today, this same dance is prevalent at weddings and special occasions and has gained popularity worldwide.

As Koul described, “I have always believed that art is a common language for all people and is something everyone can relate to, no matter what their background is; I think that the diversity in the audience and performers at Pao Bhangra V definitely strengthens this notion, as individuals from many different cultures came to experience the unique dance of Bhangra.”

In preparation for the show, Cornell Bhangra publicized heavily two weeks prior to the event, even giving Cornellians a sample of what was to come by dancing at Ho Plaza, Trillium and North Campus. Koul emphasized the crucial role that publicity played in the success of this year’s show. “I think this show sold out due to the great effort put into advertising for the event, which was a team effort all around. Everyone in our club pitched in every way they could, and it made all the difference in the end.” He also added that this year’s early advertising, which was done much more in advance than last year’s, contributed to the great turnout.

Pao Bhangra has never before been sold out, and Bhangra members were worried about ticket sales due to other popular events that were occurring that same night. Koul expressed the difficulty in organizing a show of this size in terms of advertising, accommodation plans for the seven visiting teams and sales for tickets and t-shirts. “Although these issues are relevant to any event, the magnanimity of Pao Bhangra V made it even more challenging to coordinate the many different aspects of the show simultaneously.”

Archived article by Sanika Kulkarni
Sun Staff Writer