Jhalak 2013

In its promo for Jhalak 2013, the Indian Cultural Association promised to deliver the “biggest dance competition the South has ever seen”, but did they live up to that promise? The evening definitely matched the high quality of Jhalak 2012 in terms of performance and organization, so I can certainly hand it off to ICA for another job well done. The eager audience that packed UT Austin’s Hogg Memorial Auditorium on November 10, 2013, had the chance to witness amazing performances from eight Bollywood fusion dance teams from around the nation. Just like Jhalak 2012, the theme of Jhalak 2013 was “Cut the frills, bring the skills” and these performances were evaluated purely based on dance skill.

The evening began with the emcees, Arjun Nag and Shohaib Virani, surprising everyone by coming out from among the audience. Although their humor was awkward at times, the emcees made each transition its own act and had many highlights including showcasing their swag during the Mr. India pageant and their humorous “A Day in the Life of GT Qurbani” video.

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Following their entertaining introduction, the audience was on its feet for Hum A Capella’s unique rendition of the American national anthem and Arjun Adapalli’s harmonious version of the Indian national anthem. From the enthusiastic singing along and clapping, it was apparent that the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

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After both anthems, Hum A Capella set a spirited tone for the night with their exhibition act. Hearing the infectious passion for music in their voices and seeing how much fun they were having on stage, it was impossible not to enjoy the performance along with them. My favorite of their songs was easily Aye Udi Udi Udi because of the way unique way they collaborated to produce a rich, engaging rendition. At times, the background voices seemed overpower the lead voices, but despite that, they definitely surpassed my expectations.

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The first competing team to perform was Texas Woman’s University Chingaari. Although the audience welcomed them to the stage with considerable applause, I felt that only the second half of their performance really lived up to all the hype. The first half of their performance was low in energy and lacked smooth transitions. Fortunately, during the second half, they graced the stage with much more energy, sharper moves, and brighter smiles. Thanks to a strong ending they also exited the stage to another fervent round of applause.

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Following Chingaari, Jhalak 2012’s third-place winner University of Georgia Asura set a high bar for this year’s competition. With a powerful beginning, impressive formations, and vibrant spirit, they definitely knew how to perform for the audience. Even when they messed up or their partnering was slightly off, I commend them for recovering quickly and not losing the quality of their performance. They may have brought their “A” game last year, but this year they brought the “A+”.

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As the third act of the night, University of South Carolina Moksha took to the Jhalak stage for the first time. Although they experimented with interesting moves and formations and had a few captivating moments such as their silhouetted beginning, their performance was lacking in the poise and polish that the other teams delivered. Unfortunately, their execution was too lacking to help them stand out in between two of last year’s crowd favorites.

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After USC Moksha, the crowd-pleaser Georgia Tech Qurbani treated the audience to an entertaining fusion of hip hop and bhangra. Dancing to familiar tunes such as Roop Tera Mastana and Oh oh Jane Jaana, they kept the audience laughing with light-hearted, humorous moves and left a lasting impression with their commanding stage presence. Their performance both started and ended on a high note, which certainly made them stand outs among the night’s competitors.

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Half way through the competition, the audience gave a very, very warm welcome to UT’s very own Texas Raas (TR). As a huge fan of TR, I am proud to say that they did not disappoint at all. As always, they reminded the Longhorn dance world of exactly what it means to dance with passion and to perform as a family. Furthermore, I loved their skillful incorporation of their theme “Mirror, mirror on the wall” throughout the performance.

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Kicking off the second half of the competition, newcomers California State University, Fullerton Nazara held my attention with their crisp, clean moves to fun tunes such as Mukkala Mukkabala and Applause. They really seemed to embody the music and had a unique presence up on stage; however, I feel that they could have strengthened their performance by taking more risks.

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Our other guests from the west, Arizona State University Andaaz, certainly brought Arizonan heat to the Jhalak stage. They stood out among the competitors because they delivered the entire package, including intriguing formations, polished movement, excellent partnering, and impressive lifts. However, the best parts of their performance were their dance sequence to O Haseena and their on point synchronization. Hats off to them for a commendable first-time performance.

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Performing after Andaaz, George Mason University Mason Ke Rang certainly had high expectations to live up to. They certainly had their moments and delivered an overall satisfying performance, especially during Dilliwalli Girlfriend and Murder. However, certain elements of the performance such as the lifts in the beginning could have been used more effectively for a more powerful performance.

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Perhaps the most anticipated performance of the night was that of University of Cincinnati Dhadak, which won Jhalak 2012. Right from the beginning, they reminded everyone of their characteristic ‘’wow” factor. Watching their bold moves, effortless execution, difficult lifts and varied expressions, I was fully immersed in their performance. I especially loved their seamless transitions and their ability to successfully take risks.

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Apparently, Texan teams have a way with themes. Not only did Nritya Sangam, UT’s graceful classical dance team, match Dhadak’s “wow” factor but their theme, “Dreamscape”, also made for a lovely exhibition act. They preserved the beauty of classical dance while making it fresh and modern. From songs such as Don’t Hold the Wall to Silsila Ye Chaahat Ka, their performance had a fantastic blend of hard soft, character, flavor, and an ethereal quality. As the left the stage to some of the loudest cheers of the night, it was clear why they had placed second in their first national competition of this year.

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It is one thing to perform well and an entirely different feat to tell a story. Guess who can do both? If you guessed Redefined Dance Company, then you would be correct. With their Broadway-like theme, they graced the stage with performance that was classy, distinctive, special, and full of pizazz. Effortlessly performing everything from graceful ballet moves and hard-hitting hip hop moves, they left me questioning whether there was anything they could not do.

When ICA president, Samiha Verma, took to the stage to ask the audience to predict the winners of the competition, GT Qurbani and UC Dhadak received the loudest cheers. For the most part, the results met audience expectations. ASU Andaaz came in third place, UGA Asura stole second place, and UC Dhadak won Jhalak, and a bid to Bollywood America, for the second year in a row. ASU Andaaz also won DesiDanceTeams.com Fan Favorite. Finally, I would like to congratulate Texas Raas for winning Fan Favorite Exhibition Act. In a charitable gesture, $2000 of the proceeds from Jhalak 2013 went to Pratham. Kudos to all the competing teams and UT teams on fabulous performances and to ICA for hosting such a marvelous event. Let’s see what Jhalak 2014 has to offer!

Photos by Mrinalini Vijalapuram


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