Bhangra may have started off as a Punjabi folk dance, but its modern incarnation is much flashier. Competitive bhangra teams have eye-popping outfits, elaborate routines performed to DJ mixes that blend bhangra songs with western club hits, and combine a respect for tradition with huge doses of pop culture. (Team logos riff on pro sports and comic books, and teams have their own entrance videos.) The second annual T Dot Bhangra competition took place on the York University campus on Nov. 3. Here’s what we learned:
» Beware the American college teams: The last decade has seen a bhangra boom on American college campuses. Of the nine squads at T Dot Bhangra, seven were American collegiate teams, including the eventual first place winners from Cornell.
» Props are key: Bhangra has always been heavy on props. Traditional ones include saaps, which look kind of like a tiny wooden fence, and staffs called khunda. For modern competition teams, however, the list also includes things like LED lights and elaborately draped banners.
» Bhangra crowds are loud: The crowd at T Dot Bhangra was boisterous to the point of being un-Torontonian. Local concert-goers could learn from them.
» Lateness is only a state of mind: Online marketing for T Dot Bhangra had the event starting at 4:30 p.m., but the show didn’t get underway until almost an hour later. Co-organizer and host Lilly Singh says this was intentional. “Desi people, in general, are never on time,” joked Singh, who’s well known as a YouTube comedian who goes by Superwoman. “But the contest was going to start at 5:15 p.m., so we had to accommodate.”
» The kids love bhangra: Co-organizer Aiksimar Singh said the GTA is about to see an explosion of young, talented teams.
“There are a ton of bhangra academies out there,” he said. “There are two just in the plaza where my office is. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, parents are dropping kids off like there’s no tomorrow.”