Eight of the top Indian dance teams in the nation are coming to Santa Barbara to participate in Nachle Deewane, the first-ever Bollywood and Bhangra competition.

Dhadkan, the South Asian culture and entertainment club at UCSB, will host the event at the Arlington Theatre on Saturday at 6 p.m. The competition will consist of separate Bollywood and Bhangra sections. The four Bollywood teams competing are Zahanat from UC Berkeley, Zamana from UC Irvine, Zor from UCSD and Nazara from CSUF. The Bhangra teams are UCSD’s Da Real Punjabiz, Bhangra Regiment, Tufts Bhangra and Bruin Bhangra.

According to Nishitha Viswanathan, second-year biochemistry major and co-president of Dhadkan, while Bollywood comes from the film industry, Bhangra is a type of folk dance from the Indian state of Punjab that celebrates the coming of the harvest, which is on April 13 this year, the day after the competition.

Co-president and co-organizer Soham Tikekar, second-year biology and economics double major, said the event was planned to educate viewers about the mission of Dhadkan.

“We wanted to combine two aspects that both of us are really passionate about: entertainment and social change,” Tikekar said. “We decided that doing a competition like this would help both avenues intersect and be one.”

The event received around $23,000 from sponsors, with the Associated Students Finance Board donating about $9,000, the CAB foundation donating $2,250, CAB donating $2,200 and RHA donating $1,000. Other donations were in the range of $500 to $1000.

Tikekar said they expect to make $30,000, all of which will be donated to the India Friends Association, a nonprofit aimed at providing education and nutrition to children in India.

“We also are pretty passionate about social change, and more specifically education for children, because we’ve been so privileged to be given an education here and a lot of people don’t have that,” Viswanathan said.

Viswanathan and Tikekar launched an application process to recruit teams from across the nation, with the goal of attracting teams from the established circuits of the two styles. According to Tikekar, they were expecting only a few applications from B-grade teams, but instead, received 65 applications, for only eight spots, from some of the best teams in the nation.

“It was a shock to us to get such high caliber teams for a first-year competition,” Viswanathan said.

Initially, the organizers were looking at smaller venues and worried about filling 500 seats, but Tikekar now thinks they will be close to filling the Arlington, a theatre that sits over 2,000 people.

Sabya Das, fourth-year cognitive science major and the captain of Zahanat — UC Berkeley’s all-male Bollywood team — organized the Bollywood Berkeley dance competition last year, and helped Dhadkan with the logistics of Nachle Deewane this year.

The competition, according to Viswanathan, is as much about community and culture as it is about dance.

“We really wanted to bring Indian culture here to Santa Barbara because we feel like that is a culture that was sort of lacking in the community,” Viswanathan said. “We did want to share it and we thought one of the most energetic ways to do it would be a dance competition.”

Tikekar shared Viswanathan’s sentiments regarding Indian culture being brought to Santa Barbara.

“Suddenly people know a little bit more about UCSB in the Indian community, which was not the case before,” Tikekar said.

Sewak Khurana, one of the judges for the Bhangra section, said that he is looking for the dancers to communicate culture through dance steps that originated in Indian villages hundreds of years ago.

“It’s a very exciting dance and people watch it, they really like it, and that’s how we promote the culture that we are,” Khurana said.

Khurana danced and choreographed Bhangra in college, has judged various Bhangra competitions across Southern California, and currently teaches at the Valley Sikh Temple Punjabi School.

“The most important thing about the dance is enjoying it,” Khurana said. “They get the crowd going, so I hope the crowd enjoys it too.”

In addition to the dance competition, UCSB’s South Asian acapella group, Ravaani, will be opening and closing the competition, while Mickey Singh, a popular Indian-American singer, will also perform.


This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.