If the Hindu festival of Diwali rejoices in the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, then the Broward Convention Center was one neon spotlight of ecstatic virtue at this past weekend’s Festival of Lights, hosted by the Indian Regional & Cultural Center (IRCC).
Celebrating its fifth year, the IRCC Diwali also brought an American twist to the traditional harvest festival praising Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth – nowhere more so that the event’s signature dance competitions, from fourth graders spinning their first bhangra sticks to glossy university teams from across Florida.
High school and university troupes competed in diverse forms – from the more traditional Punjabi Bhangra dance, (iconic for its vigorous kicks and accordion-like instrument called a sapp), to the fusion style, mixed with healthy doses of hip hop, dancehall and Bollywood.
The self-choreographed Desi Dhamaka high school team from Tampa won the fusion crown for their ode to Bollywood’s leading ladies through the decades. For Bhangra, the Apni Shaan team swept the high school title, awing the crowd with their sheer size and stage presence. At the college level, University of Florida’s Gators walked away with trophies for both Bhangra and Raas (a rhythmic Guajarati dance) thanks to perfect synchronization and some serious swagger, while Nova Southeastern University Maasti copped the coveted fusion title for their sequined dramatization of family love enduring against all odds.
Most triumphant of all, perhaps, was the confident creative exploration of a whole generation of young dancers, seamlessly blending bhangra kicks with pop-and-locks, making a traditional art thoroughly modern and all their own – a wealth of innovation that would make Lakshmi proud any day.