Tuesday, November 17, 2009

di Shaan

I attended the Mahogany dance show a couple weeks ago, and while each performance was entertaining and well performed, a guest performance by UVA's Bhangra dance group, "di Shaan" unquestionably stole the show. The group immediately captured my attention along with the rest of the crowd when they proudly walked on stage in brightly colored costumes, which put an edgy flare on traditional Indian attire. Everyone was excited and intrigued by the unique looking instruments that were carefully placed on the stage as they took their positions. As soon as the music started, an explosion of skillful dancing, elaborate costumes, and energetic music kept the audience actively engaged for the following ten minutes.

Di Shaan is a Bhangra dance group at the University of Virginia. The group travels around the United States to various dance competitions including Bhangra Fusion in Michigan, the Giddah Competition in Chicago, and the South Beach Bhangra in Florida. There were thirteen members performing: six females and seven males. The gender dynamic of the group gave their performance a traditional feel when the males and females would "couple off" for different parts of the dance. While the dance as a whole could be seen as "gender neutral," since both males and females were performing , there were also times when the females of the group would take center stage and vice versa. During these moments there was a large distinction between the way the females and males danced. The females' dance style was very feminine, emphasizing careful and graceful hand movements. However, when the males moved to the front of the stage, there was a burst of masculine energy, as most of their dance moves consisted of large exaggerated stomps or claps.

I found their choice of music to be the most interesting part of their performance. It was a mix of several songs which started out with very traditional sounding Bhangra music. The first few songs had the fast paced, energetic feel of Bhangra music with a strong emphasis on percussion. This traditional music was accented in their performance when they incorporated traditional Bhangra instruments into their dance. The females of the group used a smaller instrument I did not recognize and the males used a dhol. Throughout the performance they used these instruments to intensify the music, or as a part of their dance. Eventually, the music started to shift to a blend of Bhangra with rap or hip/hop/ This was exemplified when the mix of songs turned to Kanye West's hit song, "Stronger." As the music evolved, so did their dance moves. Their traditional dance style became more "edgy" and "modern." This blend of music reminded me of some of the examples we heard in class of DJ Rehka's music.

In conclusion, I greatly enjoyed di Shaan's performance. Everything about it was a fusion of tradition and modern style including their costumes, the gender dynamics, the style of dance, and the blend of music. I think this is a very significant group at UVA because not only are they extremely entertaining. but they are exceptionally representing a unique style of dance and music at our school and throughout the country.

Ginny Driscoll

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