Bhangra, More Than Just a Dance Form

The most fulfilling thing about bhangra is the eight minutes that you have on stage with your team - Gurminder Jandu from Ranjhe (Sydney, Australia)

Singapore bhangra competition – Photo: Supplied
By RedDot Bhangra | SINGAPORE

From its start in the late 1940’s as a traditional dance form to celebrate the harvests of spring, bhangra has evolved over the years, not just in style, but also in the way it has reached out to different communities, and brought people together.

While traditional bhangra is still performed to live instruments such as the dhol, modern bhangra today tends to favour a blend of internationally-influenced music. The 1990’s saw a rise in bhangra competitions, mostly in North America, followed by the UK then Australia, with the scene in Southeast Asia picking up soon after.

A typical competition routine comprises of a team of eight to sixteen members, and they will be judged on their team’s creativity, style and synchronisation, as well as energy and enthusiasm. Teams practice for months before each competition but as Gurminder Jandu, who dances with Ranjhe in Sydney, Australia, says, it’s all worth it.

“The most fulfilling thing about bhangra is the eight minutes that you have on stage with your team. After six to seven months and numerous hours of learning the choreography, making formations, fixing little mistakes and doing run-through after run-through, those eight minutes you have on stage is the best feeling. All that hard work that we put in is always worth it,” he said.

While competitive dancing can be demanding and taxing, for some, like 25 year-old Jaswinder Singh Saini who is from Mumbai and dances with Bhangra Till Last Breath, it also works as a stress buster.

“I forget all my problems when I’m doing bhangra! The most fulfilling thing for me is when bhangra helps someone to achieve their dreams,” he said.

Diana Zaharaa Binti Che Dawud Adli, a student from Malaysia, agrees.

“Bhangra has been taking me places! My team and I have participated in bhangra competitions in Malaysia, Australia, and later this month, we will be going to Singapore! I love how bhangra gives us the opportunity to meet new people who are similarly passionate in doing what they love,” she said. Diana dances with Silver State Bhangra Crew in Ipoh, Malaysia.

While the first seeds of bhangra were planted in Punjab, India, this energetic dance form has gained popularity with people of all ages across all communities in recent years.

Singaporean dancer Toh Bao En, who is part of Shere Punjab, shares: “People often come up to me and ask, ‘You’re Chinese but you can dance bhangra too?’. I like to think that in some small way I am breaking down borders and helping build bridges between communities.

“In performances, and when we perform in home for the underprivileged, I love it when the audience starts smiling, clapping or even dancing along. Their happiness feeds the energy of my dancing.”

On 23 June 2018, six teams, including those of the above dancers’, will meet in Singapore for the RedDot Bhangra Competition 2018, treating the audience to a series of choreographed high-energy dance sets.

[This article is contributed by RedDot Bhangra, a volunteer-run group dedicated to providing a platform for youth to engage with their roots and heritage through the main dance form of Punjabi culture. The multi-racial group also aims to foster understanding and harmony among diverse groups in Singapore through sharing the joy of Bhangra]

Go here for more information on RedDot Bhangra Competition 2018

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