PSH’s Vaisakhi Program Makes You Want to Get Up and Dance!

Jasmeeta Singh

Jasmeeta Singh



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By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: Midway through the first half of the four and a half hour long Punjabi Society of Houston’s Vaisakhi program, the first of the bhangra competition dance groups came onstage and invigorated the crowd with their energetic and rapid paced dance steps and it really made you want to get up and dance. The group was the Chowl Bhangra group from Rice University and they started the competition between the five groups that came on stage this past Saturday night, April 19 at the Cullen Auditorium of the University of Houston.


But that was only part of the whole entertainment package that was planned for the annual Vaisakhi celebration by the event chair Jasmeeta Singh who was also the choreographer and a performer, in addition to being a Director of the PSH. A persistent back pain prevented her from planning the event last year, as a result of which it was not held. The remainder of the program featured bhangra and gidha dances of one variety or the other by many groups from the Sikh and Punjabi community, ranging in age from the very young to college age.

The evening also included a few songs by J. S. Paras, a relative newcomer to the local scene from India, who came onstage first in a shiny silver salwar kurta and a long black sherwani while his 18 year-old son pranced as a backup singer in appropriately hip, torn jeans.

The crowd nearly filled the 1,500 seat Cullen Auditorium, with many spilling outside – as many as a hundred or more – the entrance to partake of the snacks, free juice and water that was being given out. Sim Bullar, the Indo-Canadian 7 foot 4 inch tall basketball player from the University of New Mexico who is waiting to be drafted, attended also (as he had the Sports Day program the weekend before0 and towered over the other people.

Of the two dozen items that were performed, the five bhangra teams revved up the audience with their unique moves. First place winners were Nishani Bhangra, from the University of Houston, choreographed by Gurbir Singh, winning $1,500. Hurricane Bhangra from Miami, Florida, choreographed by Ravin Sanjani danced away with the second prize of $1,200 and Texas Bhangra from the University of Texas, choreographed by Anish Nagar won the $1,000 third place prize. The last team that competed was the Hopkins Hareepa from Johns Hopkins University. The competition was judged Tarnjot (Ricky Kahlon), Gurbinder Singh (Gary Khera) and Rupi Sandhu.

There were three fashion shows this year – one featuring the Gajda Wajda Punjab Kids choreographed by Amarpreet Kaur, Rimple, Manisha and Sehajpreet Kaur and included young kids four and above who went through their paces very precisely and in colorful attire. Another fashion show featured young men and women who came out in couples, dressed in fashions provided by Almas Tejani Couture and Sari Sapne, with jewelry from the Highness Collection by Fatima. Rather than walk the typical catwalk, the models went through their routines doing dance steps to lively modern Punjabi music and eventually performing a routine that was culminated by an exciting dance routine by Jasmeeta Singh. The final Virsa fashion show was choreographed by Preet Kaur.

Another exciting dance number was the Majajanan Gidha choreographed by Preet Kaur and featured a dozen young women who danced to several Punjabi folksongs, recreating the rural dances that are still popular in the Punjab.

Midway through the evening, the program paused to allow for awards to be given to volunteers and for the event’s sponsors to be recognized for their contributions. The Consul General of India Parvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita were welcomed onstage to be felicitated with a plaque and a bouquet of flowers. Harish applauded the Sikh and Punjabi communities for putting together such a wonderful program that celebrated their cultural heritage. “The Punjabi community is very active worldwide”, he said, “and especially in Houston”. Also felicitated was the only South Asian District Court Judge, Ravi Sandill who also was warmly welcomed.