The SGA passed a bill granting the Bhangra dance team $3,000 to fund an off-campus practice space, though other teams are still without space.
Bhangra was one of seven dance organizations that applied for facility space off-campus for this semester and were originally denied.
George Pottanat, an SGA senator who pushed for the bill to go through the senate, said the SGA is working to help other organizations find space to practice off-campus.
“This is one step out of many that we’re going to be taking as the SGA on this stance,” Pottanat said after the bill passed last Monday. “And it’s not over, because this week we’re working out details with the appropriations committee within the next two weeks on how other organizations can apply for funding space, but they wanted to focus on Bhangra first.”
The struggle to find a place to practice is not a new problem for the Bhangra team or any other organizations. Prior to the closing of the Franklin Street Gym, the team practiced there, or wherever else was available on campus.
This past summer, the captains of the Bhangra team were in touch with Pottanat, and the facilitators of the Franklin Street Gym to try to organize a set place to practice, said Harsimran Sodhi, head captain of the team.
“All the dance organizations are struggling, we’re just the one who pushed and pushed for this to go through,” he said.
The group will compete on Nov. 2 in North Carolina. The group’s reputation is an important factor at the competitions, he said.
“Reputation and recognition at these competitions is huge, we’re going against the best of the best,” Sodhi said. “We really needed that space to practice, and until recently it seemed like the only thing that tied us to VCU was our name.”
Students not directly affiliated with a specific dance organization are also looking for a solution for the remaining dance teams.
“I think that it shouldn’t be this hard to find a practice space for such a positive physical art,” said Danielle Frye, a dance and choreography major. “Organizations should be granted enough respect for what they do … because for some people dance is their gateway to express themselves and it may be their only outlet they feel comfortable in.”
Frye said it is the SGA’s responsibility to represent and serve the student body.
“The school and the SGA stress that they’re here for the students, but it’s things like this that are really a testament to how true that statement is,” she said.
VCU’s Bhangra dance team has claimed national and international titles since their origin in 2004, including some of the biggest competitions in North America and Canada. The team is comprised of 18 members.
Bhangra is a type of dance that originated in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. It was originally designated as a celebratory dance that welcomed the coming of the spring season, but in its contemporary form, it is a style of music and dance that integrates a traditional sound, hip-hop, house and reggae.
“We have a pretty good record. We’ve competed in Canada and the West Coast, everywhere,” Sodhi said. “It’s all year round, during the school year and the summer.”
However, the success of the team has not come easily. Not only are hours of practice necessary for the team to create and choreograph their nine-minute ensemble, but until Monday, the team had no organized or established place to do so.
“There’s a lot that people don’t see. We don’t just dance, we work with different DJs to get a good mix that’s nine minutes long,” he said. “There’s so much that goes into this art of dance and it’s completely undermined by the school by not alotting us practice space.”
He added that on average, the team practices Monday through Thursday for two to three hours, but the team used to practice for five to six hours each day.