The all female dance team, KDT, is changing the attitude of the male dominated dance
Bhangra is a lively form of music and dance that originated from the state of Punjab, India and has been known to be a male dominated dance. But Kauran Di Taur (KDT) a female bhangra team from Calgary, Alta. is determined to put female bhangra on the map.
“Being an all girls team, it’s very judged in our community,” said Gaggan Khangura, 25-year-old KDT dance member. “If girls are dancing on stage it’s taken as a bad stigma, but as we have been doing it people have started to accept us.”
In its purest form bhangra is a mix of singing accompanied by music and the beat of a single drum known as a dhol. Different regions of India began to mix and interact, sharing their different forms of bhangra, which resulted in many different styles of the unique dance.
KDT formed as an all-girl bhangra dance team in 2006, then went on to gain the respect of fellow bhangra teams locally and Western Canada when the team won the Vaisakhi Mela competition in 2007, which is held every year in Calgary to celebrate the beginning of the Nanakshahi calendar year.
Being the first all-girl team with the Vaisakhi Mela title under their belt, they were motivated to prove that female bhangra teams are just as talented as male bhangra teams.
Photo by Anup Dhaliwal
“When we first started there would be a lot of backlash,” said Khangura. “Judges would be up on stage saying girls shouldn’t be doing bhangra, they should be doing giddha — a popular folk dance for women in Punjab — or that they shouldn’t be on stage, so seeing how that has changed from 2006 to now is inspiring.”
The team continued to practice and compete and was a top contender in Calgary’s own Jashan Bhangra competition in 2011 and 2012.
KDT was invited to compete in the Notorious Bhangra competition held in Stockton, Calif. in 2013 where 10 of the most talented bhangra teams across North America compete head-to-head to show off their bhangra skills.
Rahul Dhanda, committee member and organizer for the Notorious Bhangra competition said, “As time evolves, mentalities tend to change and a lot of people are respective towards women who go on stage and compete and perform bhangra. Girls have gone above and beyond and have proved people wrong who have sexist views by displaying spectacular performances and even placing 1st, 2nd, 3rd in competitions.”
The team broadened their bhangra skills by stepping out of the traditional bhangra dance and incorporation modern dance moves.
“We don’t stick to the traditional bhangra nowadays, we are more modern so we can come up with creative moves. We get our inspiration from other teams and taking a simple idea and making it look cool,” said Puneet Deol, 20-year-old dance member of KDT.
Photo by Anup DhaliwalThe team starts off their dance season with practices once a week for three hours. As they build and choreograph a dance, their practices double and then one month before competition they practice five days a week for four hours a day.
Nachda Punjab Bhangra Academy member and former KDT competitor Shahbaaz Johl said, “Having competed against past generations of the KDT lineage of dancers, it was inspiring to see the creativity that KDT applied to the art form of bhangra and bring their own style and flair that in turn, captivated audiences and inspired so many other future-to-be bhangra dancers.”
Gaggan Khangura has been part of KDT since 2006 and continues to dance for her uncle who passed away in 2011. “He was a very passionate bhangra dancer, he did it for so long and if I keep doing it I feel like he’s always with me,” said Khangura.
In the future, the girls of KDT hope female bhangra stays alive and continues to grow in the community. The team has exciting new ideas they hope to bring to the city, such as a bhangra workout class.
“Our roots have always been bhangra and individually we all have a different passion towards bhangra, so that unites us in a lot of ways,” said Deol.