Bhangra has appeared on America’s Got Talent, at the 2012 London Olympics and has even performed at the White House, and now Marquette University Bhangra Academy hopes to create a thriving community on campus.
MUBA is a dance organization specializing in Bhangra, a style of dance that originated in the Punjab region of India and is normally performed at celebrations such as weddings.
Riya Bhasin, a senior at the College of Health Sciences, co-founded MUBA in 2019. She described joyous memories of dancing at her family events and how she really wanted to bring that community to Marquette.
“I always thought it was fun and I thought it would always bring people together, and that was the main reason I wanted to push to have this club,” Bhasin said.
This high-energy dance is accompanied by elaborate and brightly colored outfits that pair well with the upbeat and upbeat music. Uniforms are traditional and designed to allow dancers to perform impressive moves, such as leg lifts, while displaying their culture.
College of Health Sciences senior Anuhya Kakumanu explained that while the club wants to compete eventually, they start by teaching the basics to anyone interested.
“[The club is] basically teaching people this style of dance and how to get them involved and interested in dancing,” Kakumanu said.
MUBA has a list of goals, one of them being to grow its membership and recruit more dancers this year.
“It was difficult because we had a lot of people from [the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] reach out because they want to join us, but we don’t know if we can because of COVID-19,” Bhasin said.
They had also planned to hold auditions at the start of the spring semester, but since classes were postponed, they had to reschedule them to a later date.
“I don’t even know how we’re going to proceed with the auditions right now because I have to keep checking to see if we’re going to have a space to do things,” Bhasin said.
Additionally, there were plans for a performance in early February, but Bhasin said that seemed uncertain. However, Bhasin and the rest of the organization are more than happy to accommodate anyone interested.
“All you need is good energy and a positive attitude; you don’t need any experience,” Bhasin said.
Although experience is not necessary, some members come with a knowledge of the style of their culture and life before college.
“I had a bit of experience when my friends and I went to weddings and such where we played Bhangra,” said Amrit Pal Singh, a sophomore at the College of Engineering.
Another goal of the organization is to get involved in Bhangra competitions across the Midwest. Bhasin described how they tried to get involved in the Madtown Bhangra competition before, but it was complicated by the pandemic. On top of that, Bhasin explained that MUBA was at a disadvantage as they didn’t have as many members as their competitors.
Prior to the pandemic and COVID-19 precautions, MUBA held on-campus workshops to teach dance to students. The group was able to repeat these workshops again in the fall semester and they received a lot of positive feedback from their participants.
“It was nice to know that everyone’s efforts to make this an inclusive, non-judgmental space were appreciated,” Bhasin said.
Prior to pandemic precautions, the band were also allowed to have more on-campus performances, including their appearances at MU Spotlight, a talent show hosted by Marquette University’s student government. Kakumanu mentioned that these shows became some of his favorite memories from MUBA.
Coming back from the pandemic has been a challenge for the organization, but members have worked hard throughout the fall semester to be able to get back to doing what they love.
“Having to start MUBA again, especially after the other two co-founders graduated, was a huge pressure for me,” Bhasin said. “I felt like I had invested a lot to make it work and I didn’t want to see him die.”
However, this hard work has not been in vain. Eventually, they held a few workshops as well as rehearsals for performances. MUBA wore masks and limited the number of people around them to make their practices safer, Kakumanu explained.
“There is a bit of concern with [the omicron variant.] We try to bring in new people, but you never know what’s going on with these other guys,” Singh said.
MUBA celebrates and shares culture through its on-campus performances and workshops, but growing concern over COVID-19 and the new variant has discouraged their future endeavors. They are taking measures to be safe while hoping to be able to present their dance to the community.
As the spring semester progresses, Marquette University Bhangra Academy will be working hard on its dances and future performances. If you are interested in MUBA or just want to keep up to date with them, you can find out more on their Instagram, @marquettemuba.
This story was written by Izzy Fonfara Drewel. She can be contacted at [email protected]