Punjabi Dance Brings Hundreds to YC School

Scott Bransford From: Appeal Democrat

Sharón Steinmann/Appeal-Democrat
Mahisha Patel, 16, of Wood Creek High School in Roseville performs a traditional dance during the Bhangra Fest 2002 dance competition Saturday at Andros Karperos Middle School in Yuba City.

Five-hundred people packed a gym at Andros Karperos Middle School in Yuba City Saturday night as area youths staged a celebration of a popular Indian dance form.

The event, Bhangra Fest 2002, was a display of Bhangra, a form of dance that has gained worldwide renown.

The Punjabi American Youth Club of Yuba City High School organized the event, which featured a dance competition and several exhibition routines.

Fashion shows featuring traditional Indian garb interspersed the dance routines.

Club Vice President Jyoti Chohan, 16, said her group organized the event to help Punjabi-American youths come into contact with Indian traditions.

"We wanted to spread the Punjabi culture in Yuba City and organize something for Punjabis so they could look into their own culture," Chohan said.

Yuba City resident Dr. Jasbir Kang, who gave an inspirational speech before the event began, said the event also was staged to provide Mid-Valley youths an alternative to risky behavior.

"Culture is something that everybody can relate to," Kang said. "The whole idea is to help kids stay away from gangs and drugs."

Although the dance troupes and audience were predominantly Punjabi-American, performers such as Yuba City resident Maija Yang, 15, lended diversity to the group.

Yang, who is Hmong, has been dancing Bhangra for about three years. She performed two dance routines that drew supportive applause.

Yang said she learned the routine from watching videos she bought at local Indian stores.

"In my own culture we love to dance like the Punjabi people," said Yang, 15. "I love the moves and I love the music."

Shareen Dharni, 17, who headed the dance troupe Nachdiyan Mutiaran, said Bhangra is a dance that can break down gaps between races and age groups.

Many groups danced to traditional Indian music injected with contemporary beats.

"The older generation gets it because it’s traditional but we get it too," Dharni said.

Navjot Thiara, 15, who took part in a fashion show, said Saturday’s event offered Punjabi-Americans a good opportunity to cultivate pride in their heritage.

During a fashion show, Thiara joined a group of youths who strutted across a stage in traditional garb to the beat of rap music with Punjabi lyrics.

Thiara said the background music – like Saturday’s event – exemplifies his generation’s openness to new and old cultural influences.

"We can represent our culture through hip hop," Thiara said. "We don’t have to be embarrassed of our Punjabi culture."

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