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Muqabla 2013: A night of good vs. evil

Students from colleges nationwide compete in Indian dance competition at CFA

Asst. Arts Editor

Published: Sunday, November 17, 2013

Updated: Sunday, November 17, 2013 16:11

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Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

UB Zeal (above) was named best overall fusion dance team at Muqabla for their angels-vs.-devils inspired routine that incorporated silks, ribbon twirling and traditional dance moves.


Multiple dance battles of good against evil took to the Center For the Arts (CFA) stage on Saturday night in the form of the 20th annual Muqabla competition.

The Indian Student Association hosted 12 teams from schools including Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), SUNY Binghamton, Cornell University, the University of Connecticut and Boston University. The teams competed in the hopes of winning the trophy and the right to say they are the best Indian dance team. 

Each team consisted of 12-18 dancers and competed in one of the three styles of dance – fusion, bhangra or raas. The routines lasted 8-10 minutes and almost every routine found a way to incorporate modern beats and songs with classical or traditional Indian music.

Aside from the dancing, each performance began with a video presentation introducing the dancers and giving the audience an idea of how the routine would incorporate the theme of the night – good vs. evil.

Some teams took their theme further by utilizing plots from popular stories and myths such as Harry Potter, Batman and the seven deadly sins. The fusion team, Binghamton Masti, performed a routine revolving around the story of Snow White, incorporating a cardboard castle, a poison apple and voiceovers in its dance to cue the audience into the storyline.

UB Zeal, the only UB-fusion dance team, won its category with an angel-vs.-devil inspired routine that integrated ribbon twirling, silks, hula-hoops and acrobatics.

Henna Khanijou, a senior psychology major and captain of UB Zeal, felt this win meant more than any other because it was her last Muqabla performance. She was in tears when she grabbed the trophy and held it up for her team.

“Ecstatic doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel right now,” she said. “We worked our a** off to get here and it’s just perfect that we won.”

The routine started with a video presentation of team members meeting in an abandoned hallway and initiating a dance battle between the devils and the angels.

The devils wore pink tank tops, and the angels wore similar pink tank tops with short, blue, flowing skirts. Everything was embellished with sequins, beads and small mirrors that reflected the lights on the stage. The men on the team wore all black with a pink or blue sparkling vest to indicate whether they were angels or devils.

Fusion is a combination of the classical styles, Bhangra and Raas, with modern dance styles like hip-hop, jazz and acrobatics.

Judge Alka Moudil’s favorite style of dance is Bhangra because “it possesses a certain unique life force.”

This was Moudil’s eighth year judging Muqabla, and she used to dance when she was in high school and college. Although there were no competitions like Muqabla when she was in school, Moudil encouraged students to dance and loves to watch how the groups’ expectations for themselves increase every year.

“I think the dancers like to push themselves, and each year I can tell they do,” she said. “I always look for life in the dances along with strong poses, formations and overall grace.”

During every Bhangra group, the stage was a rainbow of barefoot pairs jumping, skipping, twirling and kicking to the beat. The loose-fit clothing bounced along with the dancers, allowing the audience to see the fast-paced footwork.

The traditional costumes differ for men and women. Men wear a pagri and turla, a turban and the accompanying fan headpiece. As a top, they wear kurta, a long, flowing shirt underneath a colorful vest and a chaadra – a piece of cloth that’s wrapped around the waist like a skirt. The cloth is decorated with beads and sequins.

Women wear a salwar, which are long, baggy pants that are tight at the bottom, and a kameez, a colorful shirt. On their heads is a chunnis, a colorful piece of cloth that wraps around the neck and over the head.

Although the style of dress for all of the Bhangra teams was similar, each team’s outfits varied in detail and design.

UB Bhangra, the champion of the Bhangra category, was the crowd’s favorite. From the moment the team was announced, the crowd’s cheers, chants and applause overpowered the music. At some points, it seemed the 13 dancers were performing to the sound of their fans rather than the music.

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