Arts and Culture

Dance teams from around the country are in Louisville this weekend to take part in Derby City Dhoom, a Bhangra dance competition hosted by the Indian Student Association at the University of Louisville.

Bhangra is traditionally danced to celebrate the harvest season in the Punjab state of India. It’s energetic and requires endurance.

Derby City Dhoom director Yamini Polcum said competitive Bhangra sets run from seven to eight minutes, “so very cardio.”

They also incorporate props.

Polcum said past years have also included Fusion dance, a blending of different dance styles in Indian as well as Western styles and others. But this year’s contest focuses exclusively on Bhangra. Polcum enjoys performing it because “it’s a very powerful, yet graceful dance form.”

The Louisville contest is bringing in seven Bhangra teams from around the country to compete for cash prizes. Some teams are affiliated with universities and others are independent troupes.

Shilpa Varghese dances with the DC Bhangra Crew, or DCBC, out of Washington, D.C. She is thrilled to be onstage and feel the performance adrenaline rush again after the pandemic canceled so many live events the past few years.

“It’s exhilarating for sure, as a performer to have that opportunity again, where you get to interact with people face-to-face and meet new people and feel like you’re in a community again,” Varghese said. 

Polcum is excited to see all of the teams perform, but she also thinks it’s important that an event like this is happening in Louisville.

Dancers competing in the Derby City Dhoom contest in Louisville.Karthik Kavlakuri

Dancers competing in the Derby City Dhoom contest in Louisville.

“Showing arts and culture is one thing, but showing diverse types of arts and culture is another thing,” she said. “And so increasing access to people to learn about other cultures. With DCD, it’s showing one specific dance form that people may not be able to see a lot.” 

The 2022 Derby City Dhoom is Saturday, starting at 6 p.m., at the Kentucky Center.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.