UR Bhangra is easily one of the most enthusiastic and well-known groups on campus, so it isn’t entirely surprising to learn that this past weekend the team took their skills to the next level by traveling to Vancouver for a competition called Josh Bhangre Da (JBD). UR Bhangra attends several competitions a year — some local, some as far as North Carolina — but never have they gone as far as the West Coast.
“JBD felt extremely different from past competitions,” senior and Bhangra captain Christina Kuriacose said. “We flew across the continent versus our usual road trip.”
Bhangra captains Kuriacose, seniors Rajesh Ravikumar and Ahmad Rehmani and junior Manpreet Brar, found out about JBD through a network of internet forums on which North American Bhangra can be discussed.
After submitting an audition video of themselves, UR Bhangra found out they, along with seven other groups, were selected from a pool of about 40 groups to compete. Two of the groups ended up dropping out, however, so the competition ultimately consisted of only six teams.
Right from the beginning, though exhilarating and a huge next step for the team, attending JBD wasn’t smooth sailing. They were invited to participate in another show the same day in Binghamton, NY and had to choose between the two. They decided that although attending JBD would take more work and be much more logistically challenging, the experience would be entirely worth it.
“It would have been more practical to drive [to Binghamton],” said Ravikumar. “But we had never competed in a West Coast competition, so we decided, why not try?”
In order to put together this trip, the captains worked tirelessly since the middle of first semester to ensure that everything would work out.
“Once we decided to go we had to book flights immediately and started trying to find extra money through performances, donations and the school that would ease the financial blow for team members,” Kuriacose said.
Part of this financial assistance came from both Dean Richard Feldman and the Students’ Association Appropriations Committee, ultimately dropping the cost of attending to about $100 for each team member, which covered everything from plane tickets, to hotel rooms, to rental car fees.
“We had to ask ourselves, is it worth going out west? And after coming back I can definitely say it was 100% worth it,” Rehmani said.
To prepare for this experience, the captains met every day for several hours, beginning the day they got back from winter break. During meetings they worked on everything from selecting songs to choreographing a routine.
The team had a winning routine already in place from a competition in Buffalo, N.Y. at which they took first place, but the four captains decided that creating new routine from scratch, though it would be a lot more work, would be worth it.
“Literally like the day we got back [from winter break] we went to my suite and just hit it for five or six hours,” Rehmani said.
The journey, though extremely beneficial, was also quite condensed. On their way to Vancouver, the members split up into three flight groups and all met up in Seattle, whereupon they made the four-hour drive up to Canada the next day.
At JBD, not only was UR Bhangra the only collegiate team invited, they were also the only East Coast team, the most ethnically diverse team and the only coed team. Because of these differences, it is even more impressive that UR Bhangra qualified for the competition, but on the other, more realistic hand, as freshman member Eduardo Quinonez pointed out, it also meant that the group had the short end of the stick, and the captains agreed.
“Going into this competition we knew the lineup was very difficult, and I’m not saying we went into it thinking we couldn’t place, but it was something we thought about since it was a harder competition,” Rehmani said.
In terms of experience, most of the opponent teams’ members had been dancing since their childhood, while for some members of the UR team, this is their first time dancing — possibly contributing to the fact that the group didn’t place.
“It was a very positive experience, though,” Quinonez said. “We didn’t end up placing, but the team bonded a lot. For some people [on the team] this was their first competition, so it was a good opportunity for them especially.”
For a lot of the team members, this experience was more than just the chance to compete. Many of the groups competing against them were extremely well known and hold somewhat of a celebrity status in the world of Bhangra, so the competition also served as a chance to watch some extremely talented groups perform.
“I’ve been watching some of the teams that were at JBD on YouTube for the past few years, so it was unbelievable seeing them live and performing with them,” Kuriacose said. “The environment was exhilarating.”
Though UR Bhangra didn’t place at the competition, what they gained from it, in a sense, was far more important than an award. All of the members were able to gain new motivation and goals to strive for after seeing their competitors perform.
“Not only was [seeing these independent teams live] that exciting for seniors who have been with this for a while, but it was also motivational for the younger members,” Rehmani said.
This was the first year JBD was held, and Rehmani said that the group might consider attending again in the future, but nothing is set in stone for next year at this point.
Sklar is a member of the class of 2014.