Bhangra Beat preview: an interview with Upma Kapoor
By GINNY CLARK
The University of Mary Washington will host the ninth annual Bhangra Beat at 7 p.m. in the Anderson Center this Saturday, Nov. 9. A test of skill, poise and passion, teams from all over the state will perform and contend for the winning seat.
Competing teams include James Madison University Bhangra, Virginia Tech Bhangra, University of Virginia di Shaan and Virginia Commonwealth University Bhangra, which will perform alongside exhibiting teams VCU Nach Ve and UMW’s very own Eagle Bhangra.
Bhangra is a popular style of dance that originates from the Punjab region of eastern Pakistan and northern India. Grounded in rich folk traditions, bhangra has evolved over time to include elements of hip-hop, rock and even reggae. A synthesis of musical styles, bhangra is more than just dance, it is a merging point of genre, culture and era. It eradicates boundaries.
For graduating senior Upma Kapoor, captain of Eagle Bhangra and English major, this year’s Bhangra Beat will be her last. The Bullet had a chance to sit down with Kapoor and talk to her about the upcoming bhangra event.
What is Bhangra Beat? Is this something that is unique to Mary Washington?
Yes! Bhangra Beat is an event hosted by the International Living Community (ILC), or Framar House, in collaboration with the Association of Residence Halls and Office of Residence Life. What sets our event apart from other bhangra competitions is not only our nearly decade-old legacy, but the fact that the teams we invite have the opportunity to meet with judges and discuss their scores. Similarly, it becomes an enriching opportunity for our audiences as between performances, dancers and ILC members have tidbit lessons on the history of the dance, culture and attire.
The UMW Eagles danced a lot this year. How does a team prepare for an event like this? What are some of the greatest challenges you face?
Eagle Bhangra is an exhibition team at the event, so we prepare with our regular practice plus or minus a few additional run-throughs. The ILC, as the head planners of the event, starts planning as early as January. We determine which teams to invite, additional exhibition acts and, most importantly, who the judges will be by October. Ultimately, the greatest challenge is to ensure that all acts and judges are able to attend. It is a major juggling act, managing over 80 performers in a single evening. It is more challenging to depend on 24 different individuals to ensure that everything runs smoothly. But we’re up to it!
Why do you think so many college students are attracted to bhangra? What separates this from other performance arts?
Bhangra is an energetic and fun dance to watch. While this could be said about any other dance, the colors and props incorporated in bhangra set to upbeat mixes of various top hits, provides an entertaining experience. What may make it even more different on this campus alone is that it is a big event that the ILC strives to improve upon every year. Last year, we had about 700 people fill up the Anderson Center to watch the event, and everyone seemed to learn something about Punjabi culture that they never would have expected.