August 13, 2014

Cornell Bhangra Performs for Millions on America’s Got Talent

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Millions of viewers nationwide who tuned in to NBC’s America’s Got Talent August 12 were treated to the high-energy moves and music of Cornell Bhangra.

Dressed in a vivid array of colors, members of the dance troupe, which performs Punjabi folk dance, performed a 90-second routine that was followed by a standing ovation from the crowd, as well as positive reactions from the show’s judges during the week three quarterfinals of the show.

Cornell Bhangra had garnered the highest number of votes in an online poll following their performance in The Today Show’s “Today’s Got Talent competition on July 23, allowing them to enter America’s Got Talent at its quarterfinals stage. The group had originally auditioned for America’s Got Talent, but did not continue with auditions because of academic conflicts.

The team was unable to secure one of the five spots in the semifinal round during the week three quarterfinals results show August 13.

Judge Howie Mandel said he thought Bhangra’s America’s Got Talent performance was exciting, yet unexpected.

“What I love is when people always mix it up a bit,” he said. “You opened what your culture is to a wider audience.”

Howard Stern said the group had a “distinct advantage” despite its late entrance into the competition.

“We’ve never seen you before … it’s the first time, it’s very exciting,” Stern said. “If you go through, it would be interesting to see if you sustain this type of excitement.”

Armaan Kapoor ’15, co-president and co-captain of Bhangra, said performing in front of millions was “simply surreal.”

“Radio City is one of the most prominent stages to dance on, and it was a blessing being there,” he said. “We were all a little nervous, but as soon as the music started, we just started having fun.”

According to Ashley George ’16, a member of the team and public relations director, performing on the stage at Radio City Music Hall was a childhood dream come true.

“Every other year my family and I [would come] to watch the Christmas Spectacular and our closest seats we ever booked were in the first balcony. Now I was on the stage,” she said. “A dancer could never dream of a better place to be.”

The team trained for the America’s Got Talent performance for around a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, according to Kapoor and George.

George added that the experience of performing on national television brought a sense of unity and cohesiveness to the team.

“We went from simply being just another competing dance team to being representatives of the South Asian culture and our style of dance to the American audience,” she said. “You can imagine the unifying effect of that change.”