Elite 8 Bhangra Pre-Competition Review

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elite 8 2012 precompetitionAs most bhangra fans know, The Elite 8 Bhangra Invitational is taking place this weekend in Washington, D.C. Since, I had written an earlier post on my thoughts and predictions for the lineup (Elite 8 2012 Predictions and Thoughts) I figured, now that the lineup was finalized, I’d share a few pre-competition thoughts. Just to give a bit of background, Bhangra Empire has performed at the past 2 Elite 8’s (2010 and 2011) but will not be performing this year. Elite 8 burst onto the scene in 2010 and, for the past two years, has been one of the most anticipated competitions of the year. Normally, the competition includes 2 teams from each region (US-West, US-East, Canada-West, Canada-East). This year was marketed as the ‘year of the wildcard’. My assumption was that a 9th team would be chosen and added to the mix, but I believe Elite 8 initially planned on taking a bid away from one region and giving it to another. So, instead of having 2 teams from each region, one region would have only one team, while another would have 3 teams. This really didn’t make too much sense to me because instead of bringing something new to the show, it just seemed to me as a way for them to choose their 8 teams in a different way and go away from the regions theme they have used in the past. Anyways, to recap, my Elite 8 predictions for the lineup were as follows: Apna Bhangra Crew (Seattle), Da Real Punjabiz (San Diego), PCBCA (Vancouver), Shan-E-Punjab (Vancouver), Anakh-E-Gabroo (New York), VCU Bhangra (Virginia), Nachdi Jawani (Toronto), SGPD (Toronto), and SMD (New York) as the wildcard.

Emdo EntertainmentHow did I do with my predictions? Well it depends on if you are looking at the original lineup or the final lineup. For one reason or another, Elite 8 had multiple big name teams drop from their competition this year after the lineup had been released. The original lineup consisted of 8 all guy teams (APD, BK, AEG, JJ, SGPD, NJ, NYPD, PCBCA). I’m all about variety, so I really didn’t understand the direction that the lineup went. I’m not saying certain teams didn’t deserve to go, but I just didn’t get why a competition would choose to put 8 all guy teams in a lineup. My early prediction was that over half the teams would either, go co-ed as a surprise, or bring in girls as a gimmick. But that is a moot point now, because the line up changed. The first to drop was Nachdi Jawani from Canada East. Then PCBCA from Canada West dropped. And then to round it out, the defending champions, SGPD from Canada East, dropped. It will be interesting to see what Elite 8 will do in the future. Both years we competed, we were told that if we dropped, our team would be banned from Elite 8 for the next 2 years. And Elite 8 usually confirms its teams in the September time frame, so for teams to drop that close to the competition was a bit confusing. EMDO Entertainment (the organization behind Elite 8 ) branched out this year to the bollywood/fusion circuit and will be throwing its first Elite 8 Naach Invitational in April (go Wanted Ashiqz!) I wonder if that might have caused them to lose focus from the bhangra competition, but that’s just speculation. In the end, only the committee and the individual teams know the reasoning as to why there were so many drops.

Moving on, when teams drop, there are replacements of course. So SMD jumped in as the wild card team. UNC Bhangra Elite was the next team announced. And VCU Bhangra was the last of the replacement teams. My first thought was this added a whole lot of variety to the competition which is definitely a good thing. UNC and VCU are both coed teams and SMD is an all-girl team. But this completely threw the regional aspect of Elite 8 out the window. Now there were 5 teams from US East, 2 teams from US West, and 1 team from Canada West. The whole differentiating factor that allowed Elite 8 to distinguish itself from other competitions was lost. The question that is on everybody’s mind is whether this is still considered an Elite competition? Especially with last years champions not returning to defend their crown? I guess we will have the answer to that in a couple of days.

Judging wise, Elite 8 has rewarded 2 types of styles in the past. One is the high paced, almost chaotic, Toronto style which stresses entertainment (patented by SGPD and NJ who ironically will not be there this year). And the other is the more folk-based, clean, smooth, simple style (exemplified by VCU in 2010 and 2011). If your team does not fall in either of these categories, judging has not been kind to you. If the judging is consistent from previous years, my prediction is that a team with the more simple style will come out on top. UNC Bhangra Elite comes to mind which, in my opinion, reminds me of VCU from 2009 with a little less emphasis on entertainment value. If the Toronto style is rewarded, then I see AEG and NYPD battling it out for the top spot. My dark horse pick is APD, whose modern style will really set them apart in the competition (okay that might be my modern bias talking).

warner theaterTo finish it off, I still believe Elite 8 will be a great event. They have a sell out crowd that goes crazy every year, and I predict this year will be the same (this was one of the main reasons we decided to do Elite 8 in 2010 and 2011). They have GTV back in the house this year, which means there will be great videos coming our way via YouTube. And there are some first time teams in the lineup which, I’m sure, feel they have something to prove. I believe you can still get tickets online via the Elite 8 Official Website¬†and in case I didn’t mention it earlier, the event is taking place at Warner Theater, so if you are in the DC area, be sure to check it out. Good luck to all the teams and the competition organizers.

Below is a video introducing the final lineup:


Omer Mirza says:

I do agree that having more dancers adds another dimension to what teams can do. Hence the progression from 8, to 12, to 16, and now 24 I guess. My point was more for how it looks on that stage. That stage is tiny and putting that many people on there really looks cramped, purely from an aesthetic standpoint. On top of that, I would be hard pressed to say that any of the teams that had 16 or more dancers were clean from a formations perspective. But my definition of clean is much different than everybody else’s. I look for clearly defined lines/circles/v’s or whatever, where even one person being slightly off makes a big difference. Most teams don’t really hit formations these days. They go to the general area so that the audience gets a general idea of what is going on, and then move on to another formation. That’s just my opinion though.

And like I said, you were there, while I saw some videos, which is a huge difference. That many people on stage and people dancing in the audience would be much more appreciated in person, while the impact is not as great for people watching videos.

Jake says:

Yeah, I was there. I ended up spending most of the weekend hanging out with AEG and made a brief appearance in their set, actually (can’t see me in the vids, I was one of the guys in the balcony).

I don’t entirely agree with your criticism of the mobbing the stage thing. When it added a new dimension to the set, the everybody on stage gimmick was actually cool. In the case of JJ, I will agree it was hackneyed and didn’t really add much. In the case of UNC and AEG, though, it contributed a lot to the set. UNC’s drumline bit probably won them the comp, because as clean as they were and as much nakhra as they had, they needed something to match or exceed NYPD’s gimmicks. In AEG’s case, the 18 (and subsequent 24, then 60) man set was the centerpiece of their whole routine. The three man jodis were a new idea, and this really influenced their formations (you can do a lot of new interesting formation stuff with 18 guys), as well as putting a lot of emphasis on when they were dancing well (and unfortunately when they made mistakes, like in their jhoomer). The best example of this was when Navi brought out the six more girls (the Navi gimmick was a bit surprising since they’d already used it at Boston, and I almost thought it was a joke at first), and they finished the set with 24 people. Watching 24 people in lockstep hitting everything in EXACT time was unbelievably awesome. Then people went nuts when everyone in the aisles and balcony started hitting at the same time, too. If you can keep 24 people on stage in a formation and have them all hitting at once, that doesn’t detract from the routine in my opinion, it enhances it.

Omer Mirza says:

Nice review of the show. Were you at the competition?

I haven’t seen all the videos and all but seemed like the show went very well. I had a feeling about UNC just because of the way Elite has been judged in the past and their style being very similar to VCU’s. I figured they would execute better than all the other teams trying to bring 20 people on stage.

On that same note, one thing that did bug me was all the teams who brought like 50 people on stage (or even 16). Though it was probably awesome for the people that were actually there because it added to the hype, I just saw it as a cop out. It was like, we can’t think of anything else, so well just add as many people as we can. And the elite stage is not huge by any means. Even 16 dancers look cramped on that stage from an aesthetic standpoint. But that’s just my opinion.

But congrats to UNC and all the other teams, seems like every team brought it hard.

Jake says:

You were dead on after all. I was pulling hard for AEG, but tbh, their performance wasn’t as good as usual. Not quite as clean or as fiery as in the past. Navi’s gimmick was neat and they managed to keep it together pretty well even with 24 men on stage. I would have placed them in a tie for second with NYPD. NYPD was entertaining but too formulaic in my opinion, and all of their gimmicks centered on the “OMFG I CAN SLIDE WITH THIS FOOT, GUYS” thing, which was cool at first but when every damn gimmick was the same, it got old. JJ was great but kind of sloppy at times. SMD was on point as usual, and they had ridiculous energy. BK was very entertaining but not so clean. APD was a hell of a fun set to watch, but they definitely were sloppy. I don’t think anyone will ever top that ending gimmick, though. VCU was weaksauce. Far less entertaining than BK or APD, although clean. Just not a memorable set. especially given their traditional powerhouse status (yes, I know that they’ve had a huge amount of personnel changes, but their choreo was dull and their formations/movement were average).

UNC was great fun to watch. They had a ton of energy. They knew they were the underdogs, but they grew into the occasion and hit all of their choreo. The drumline section was INSANE, as was the finale, where they had their gora dholi whip off his drumline hat and bust out in the middle. Huge set and they totally deserved the win.

Omer Mirza says:

See, I think it really comes down to the judging style and what it rewards. If they are going for the SGPD-esque style that won it last year, then I think AEG is the favorite. But Elite judges have placed VCU first in 2010 and second in 2011, which means they value that style as well. UNC’s main advantage is they they are coed which will help them stand out, while AEG has 4 other all-guy teams to worry about, with NYPD and BK having very similar styles to them. But you are right about APD. They will put on a very entertaining performance, but unless they change their style to the Toronto style (which I would hate to see), will have a difficult time with the judges.

Jake says:

Omer, if I had to guess, I’d say that it’ll be AEG. APD’s gone farther and farther towards modern (their mix preview was quite interesting, and very atypical for most other teams). AEG’s had a hell of a season so far, and while there are some strong, underrated teams in the mix this year (NYPD and SMD come to mind), I think it’s AEG’s year. BK is having a really tough time putting together a clean set, UNC is good, but not quite in the same league as some of their opposition, VCU is in the middle of a rebuilding year (as evidenced by VPD, a comp that would normally play to their strengths) and I think JJ is sort of an unknown quantity. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but, as I said, I think it’s going to be AEG’s year.

About the Author

By day (and some nights), I am a Network Engineer working for a startup in Redwood City. By night (and some days), I am an MBA student at Santa Clara University. Whatever time is left goes into Bhangra Empire. What is Bhangra Empire? Read my blog and you'll find out.


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