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Vaisakhi, Celebrated Even Late, is Still A Joyful Community Affair

Vaisakhi-in-5

Photos: Kanha Arts, Ravi Grover

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Halfway through the 26 dance segments, the Sohniya Houston Diyan Gidha group took the stage and they were mesmerizing. Their footwork, singing and brilliantly colored kurtas, duppatas and skirts and swinging long braided ponytails just enveloped the entire stage as all twelve women dashed around alternating between rounds of duets and group gidha numbers (choreographed by Navneet Kaur) that stretched out into the longest segment of the program. Either they had been practicing for weeks or they really were from the same village that held dances each day!

The organizing committee for the Vaisakhi Night onstage with Punjabi Society of Houston president Pritpal Singh

The organizing committee for the Vaisakhi Night onstage with Punjabi Society of Houston president Pritpal Singh

They weren’t alone in projecting the sheer energy of dance in abandonment. The two teenage boys of Sheran di Kaum Junior Bhangra brought along happy feet, arms, body and everything else as they energetically and effortlessly (it seemed) went through many bhangra moves and the audience broke out in huge applause. The eight boys (and the two little ones who brought them out) of Houston de Shaukeen Gabroo were certainly exuberant enough for the prime of their life (which is what gabroo means) and the audience loved them too.

Some of the participants in a gidha dance. Photos: Kanha Arts, Ravi Grover

Some of the participants in a gidha dance.

This was the Vaisakhi Night program that the Punjabi Society of Houston had promised they would once again hold this year, after an absence of two years. It showed that the Vaisakhi spirit is still alive, even two months after the festival. After being postponed, it came together, this past Saturday, June 17 at the same venue as before – the Cullen Auditorium at the University of Houston – and with many of the original organizing team, although the Fashion Show that was advertised didn’t materialize.

The Virrasat e Khalsa group appeared as the Panj Pyare

The Virrasat e Khalsa group appeared as the Panj Pyare

In true Punjabi style, this was a show that waited on the audience to arrive so that they could start and the program began at 8pm, 90 minutes after it was advertised. Then there were miscues and technical glitches, especially in the early dance numbers with little kids, but soon the program found its footing. More than half the show was devoted to dances by kids – big and little – and their parents, relatives and friends lined the hall seats on one side.

Vaisakhi-in-2

“This program is not from people outside but from those of Houston,” said Navdeep Kaur Grewal, who was not only one of the emcees, but also a tappe performer. She, along with Narinder Aujla, PSH President Pritpal Singh and many others had labored hard to piece together the event in two months, and coaxed all the dance teams to keep practicing. Pritpal Singh thanked the PSH Board, all the committee members and promised that the program would be bigger and better next year. The official emcee this year was Sherry Dutta from New York, who held an easy banter with the audience, especially in the front VIP section.

But, enjoyable as it was, the program was an exercise in endurance as it went through 26 segments and lasted for close to 4 hours, not counting the 90-minute delay. The sheer explosion of music – some of it repetitious – was overwhelming and a certain variety would have added to the allure of the evening. One of the entertaining aspects were the ad spots and photo shots of the organizers and sponsors and sharp video clips by Kanha Arts photography which had the stage projection screen buzzing with digital effects..

Still, the program brought out some of the most talented and lively entertainers in this city. The tail end of the program was devoted to bhangra performances by some of the better known groups in Texas – Nishani Bhangra, Space City Diya Mutiyaran, Red City Bhangra group, Alamo Bhangra, UT-Texas Bhangra and Sheran Di Kaum Bhangra Dallas – all of who are semi-professional. Though they competed for best place, at the end of the evening, they agreed to divide the cash prize between them and hold a more lively competition at the same venue on July 1.

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