Print Edition: June 4, 2014
The stage was dark. Audience members filtered into their seats as the pitter-patter of bare feet and jangle of bangles collected in quiet commotion behind the red velvet curtain. Anticipation stirred.
This was the setting for the second annual Elite Bhangra Festival, held at the Surrey Bell Centre. It was a great turnout of supporters ready to cheer on their teams with hoots and fog-horns. About 20 diverse groups were lined up to compete, ranging from all ages, genders, and places of origin, from Sullivan Heights high school to our very own UFV.
Teams with both choreographed dance and live music competed for a $2000 prize, while teams with choreographed dance sought a $1000 prize. Each team was critiqued by a row of judges for form, attire, energy, precision, and the use of cultural references, be it props or wardrobe.
The six-hour event had the participants eagerly waiting backstage for their turn to perform — among them were our UFV girls.
The team of 14 were excited to compete, but nervous. When asked if the whole team gets thrown off when one member messes up, UFV Bhangra Club leader Sandi Sekhon said, “No, but we do lose points — [that is what’s nerve-wracking].”
Most of the girls have had some previous dance experience and have participated in competitions before; however, dancing under the scrutinizing eyes of the judges had them anxious to perform flawlessly.
Throughout the semester, the club meets once or twice a week, but prior to the competition, the girls practiced between three and four times a week. Additionally, for special events, the club hires professional Bhangra dance coach Gurdeep Jhamat, who has worked with the UFV team many times in the past.
However, in order to compete the UFV Bhangra dance club needs local support, both financially and through audience attendance.
“It is hard for us to even apply to certain competitions without a sustainable audience. Competition organizers want to sell tickets — so if your dance team doesn’t meet the quota of supporters, then your club will not get into the competition,” Sekhon explained.
“We do all of our own fundraising and many of us have given out of our pockets to keep the team alive,” she concluded. “We haven’t asked the university for money since the club first started six years ago. We would love UFV’s support because we are here to represent and promote the university.”