Last Saturday, UNC hosted the annual Aaj Ka Dhamaka dance competition in Memorial Hall.
The event was presented by UNC’s South Asian Awareness Organization, Sangam, and featured 11 dance teams from North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgia Tech and more. The competition featured two stylistic categories: Bhangra, a traditional dance from the Punjab region of India; and Fusion, a combination of multiple dance styles.
“We all interpret Fusion a little differently, and it’s fun and interesting to see how different people from different parts of the nation merge Western and South Asian cultures into a stage-worthy performance,” said Bhavi Patel, a senior member of NC State’s team.
AKD finds its niche in uniting people from across the country in their love for dance. From the opening act, the atmosphere was electric with booming speakers and screaming fans during each performance that made it difficult not to cheer for every team as if it were your own. There was certainly a competitive nature to the event, but it was encompassed under a greater sense of community and togetherness.
“VT Bhangra attended AKD in 2012 and 2014. Those dancers have graduated from Virginia Tech, so this is a new experience for most of us who are on the team now,” co-captain Malvika Damle said.
While there were lots of friends and family who were familiar with the competition, for many in attendance, the event was unlike anything they had been a part of before.
“I’ve never seen a performance of that style and it was really cool to see the different culture,” said Will Smith, a first-year who came with a few friends.
The event was held in support of Sangam’s Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship, a scholarship established in 1998 which annually grants two students up to $3,000. The money can be used toward a project of the student’s choosing that raises awareness for, or aids in some way, the South Asian community. Proceeds from the competition were used to fund this initiative.
In the end, Virginia Tech took first place in the Bhangra category and NC State won in the Fusion group. Unfortunately, since UNC hosted this year, our team could not compete as it would have been an unfair advantage to perform on a stage they know so well. Despite their not participating in the event, the turnout was great and it was clear that South Asian culture is cherished and celebrated here at UNC.
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