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Cornell Bhangra promotes Punjabi culture, having the opportunity to perform in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

November 26, 2023

Cornell Bhangra Takes the Stage at the 97th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured a vibrant and dynamic performance from “one of the most well-known bhangra teams in the world” as introduced by NBC. Cornell Bhangra — the University’s all-inclusive competitive Punjabi dance team — took the stage as the first bhangra dance team in the parade’s history.

Cornell Bhangra is one of seven performance groups that performed in the parade, securing a competitive spot in the most-watched entertainment program of the year across cable and satellite television, according to the Hollywood Reporter

Cornell Bhangra aims to promote Punjabi culture and provide a supportive community for its members. They compete in national competitions and also host the largest international bhangra exhibition in the nation, Pao Bhangra. 

“Whenever we perform, we are able to draw on the excitement of the audience,” Sejal Sekhar ’27 said. “Through that, our team is able to feed off the energy, which makes the dancing more authentic.”

Inspired by Cornell Bhangra’s previous performance on America’s Got Talent in 2014, co-president Anisha Saini ’24 said she wanted to showcase this year’s team to a larger audience and made it a goal to get Cornell Bhangra back on the national stage.

After applying to several performance events, Cornell Bhangra received a spot in the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“[The parade is] more commonly known for marching bands and balloons, but I did find a performance group application, so I filled it out, and a few months later they contacted us and were like ‘Congratulations, we’d love to have you,’” Saini said. 

The group traveled to New York City the day before Thanksgiving, giving them time to rehearse throughout the night. 

“We walked the parade route, which was a little bit more than two and a half miles, and danced all the way to the Macy’s star, which was where the broadcasted performance took place,” Sekhar said. “Instead of just walking throughout the parade route, we wanted to dance the whole route to spread our culture and joy, which is what Bhangra means — ‘intoxicated with joy.’” 

Following their performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Cornell Bhangra is looking ahead to their spring showcase, Pao Bhangra. 

“Pao Bhangra is the largest Bhangra exhibition in the U.S. It’s one of the largest student-run events on campus. Last year we had close to 1,000 people attend, so it’s really cool,” Saini said. “We invite four teams from around the country to come for a weekend of fun. We also invite some groups from Cornell to perform as guest performances.” 

The location has yet to be confirmed, but the event will take place on March 16, 2024. Team applications are open now and are due Dec. 15. 

Grace Liu ’27 and Luca Pavlovich ’27 are Sun contributors and can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]