Jhalak 2012

On November 10, 2012, after a week of seeing Jhalak 2012 hyped up on their Facebook feeds, all over campus, and in their residence halls, hundreds of people filled UT Austin’s Hogg Memorial Auditorium ready for fun, laughs, and dhamakedar dancing.  Indian Cultural Association (ICA) and DesiDanceTeams.com brought in dance teams from all over the country to showcase their talent at the largest Bollywood Dance competition in Texas. The motto of Jhalak 2012 was “Cut the frills, bring the skills”, and it implemented a unique format based purely on dance skill. A prize of $3000 was offered to the winning team and, in a charitable gesture, $1500 went to Pratham, a non-profit organization that helps provide education to unprivileged children in India.

Upon entering, audience members were greeted by pounding Bollywood music, setting the tone for a show that surpassed all its hype. Attending my first dance competition at UT Austin, I honestly did not know what to expect, but for me, this show was nothing short of amazing. Judging from the audience’s constant cheers and applause throughout the night, I would not hesitate to say that many would agree. Full of masala, magic, and masti, the night was a vibrant celebration of South Asian culture and passion for dance. A big thank you to ICA and DesiDanceTeams.com for hosting such an enjoyable evening.

The night started off with a well-made video that got the audience excited for what was to come next. Following this, Hum A Capella took to the stage to sing the American and Indian national anthems. They did an exquisite job with a smooth transition into their exhibition act, which consisted of a wonderful blend of songs including Guzarish and Ride It. Rather than overpowering the lead singers, the background voices complemented them. Throughout the entire performance, the singers’ joy was infectious, and Hum A Capella easily got the audience to clap along with them.

Although they followed a tough act, the emcees for the night, Sundeep Kumar and Nabeel Khandwala, were no less of an act themselves. From Presidential raps and Gangnam style to a video creepy enough to rival Paranormal Activity, their comedy was genuine and they kept the night seamlessly flowing from one act to another.

The first competitor to perform was all-female dance team Chingaarii, from Texas Women’s University. Performing to popular songs such as Jazba, Alors on Danse, and Chikni Chameli, they brought an interesting fusion of Bollywood, hip hop and bhangra movies to the stage. Creative formations throughout the performance held the audience’s interest. From beginning to end, their level of energy and enthusiasm was high and made them a clear crowd favorite.

The next team to perform, University of Georgia’s Asura, treated the audience to a different flavor of dance. Starting with a eye-catching, well-coordinated stunt and charming old school Bollywood moves, they had done enough to become one of my favorites for the evening within the first half of the performance. From there, they delivered crisp hip hop moves and were in perfect synchronization the entire time, even when they had blindfolds on. Immediately following their performance, I heard an audience member comment that their stunts were “ridiculous”, and I would wholeheartedly have to agree. It was clear that UGA Asura had brought their A game tonight, and I commend them for setting such a high bar.

Although Boston University’s Jalwa danced admirably, they did not quite reach the level of the other competitors. Overall, they had an upbeat mix of classical Indian dance, Bollywood and hip hop that held my attention entire time. I especially enjoyed them breaking out to Gangnam style in the middle of the performance. However, there were several moments during which their energy died down and their synchronization was slightly off that took away from an otherwise excellent performance. The one thing that really set their performance apart, though, were their flawless facial expressions.

Following BU Jalwa was crowd-pleasing Qurbani from Georgia Tech. They set the stage on fire with a remarkable showcase that simultaneously demonstrated strong skill and catered to its audience. Additionally, their creative beginning with glowsticks forming a Q showed innovation and team spirit, and their performance was full of moments that indulged the audience’s sense of humor. In fact, I daresay their facial expressions alone were entertaining enough to warrant the audience’s constant cheers and applause.

Halfway through performances by competing dance teams, UT’s very own Nritya Sangam presented its talent in a gorgeous exhibition act. As the emcees aptly put, they really brought “neo-classical” to the stage. Creative in their song choices and daring in their formations, they showed that classical dance can have just as much scope as any other style of dance. Although they had very slight synchronization problems, it did not take away at all from their overall performance.

Texas Raas, fondly known as Dirty South Dandiya, entered the stage with an overwhelming cheer from the audience and left the audience cheering even harder. Their exhibition act showed exactly why they make the Longhorn dance world so proud. Their Garba/Raas steps were tremendous and chock-full of energy, their spirit exuberant, and their coordination flawless. Honestly, what more could the audience ask for? I cannot wait to see where Texas Raas is headed next!

Following Texas Raas, Bollywood fusion team Delaware Kamaal poured their heart and soul onto the stage; their spirit was almost palpable. With skilled integration of classical and hip hop moves, clean dancing, and great use of props, they lit up the floor.  The ending to their dance was solid, but the beginning of their dance was the most memorable part of it.

Arizona State University’s Aashiyana was quite impressive, especially considering that it was their first time competing in a dance competition of this level. Their energy and passion for dance more than made up for the few unclean finishes they had. As their performance progressed, it increased in both skill and liveliness, and they ended up being a huge crowd pleaser. Even if they did not win the overall competition, having such a successful first performance is considerable victory itself.

Perhaps the biggest shocker of the evening was University of Cincinnati’s Dhadak. Performing to familiar tunes such as O Saaya, Dil Bole Hadippa and Dus Bahane, they intrigued the audience with some of the coolest and most innovative moves of the night. Their incredible stunts were crisply performed and blended well with the dance moves. As evidenced by the crowd’s constant cheering and whistles, the audience loved them, and they were definitely my personal favorite of all the competitors.

The final competitor to perform was Genesis, an all-male fusion dance team from The Ohio State University. They delivered consistent moves, exemplary coordination, and an overall adept performance to songs such as Mercy, Wall to Wall and O Humdum Soniyo Re. However,  they lacked the ‘wow’ factor that some of the other teams had.

Redefined Dance Company closed out the show with a phenomenal exhibition act that literally took my breath away. Their circus theme lent itself perfectly to creative dance moves, stunning costumes, new energy and a unique presence. Even more so than their skills, clever music selection, and mesmerizing stunts, it was their overwhelming passion for dance that held on to my attention. ICA could not have chosen a better way to end the night and ensure that Jhalak 2012 left a lasting impression on the audience.

When asked to predict the winners of the competition, most audience members shouted either UC Dhadak or  GT Qurbani. Competition results almost exactly met audience expectations: UC Dhadak took the first place prize, GT Qurbani was in second place, and UGA Asura in third place. TWU Chingaarii was awarded $150.00 for being the fan favorites.   From the emcees to the competitors to the exhibition performances, Jhalak 2012 was a night to be remembered.  Congratulations to all the dance teams on praise-worthy performances and to ICA and DesiDanceTeams.com for doing an impeccable job in taking care of all the details and making sure this event was well worth the audience’s time and money. I’m willing to guess that Jhalak 2013 will be even bigger and better, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer, Event and Image Strategist for Hogg Memorial Auditorium

  1. Dhamakedar: Lively, full of energy
  2. Masala: Metaphorical reference to a mixture of spices used in Indian cooking
  3. Masti: fun

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1 comment

  1. Merwan Hade says:

    Nov 26, 2012


    Very well written. Anvita and Nazar, keep it up!

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