Ishita Bakshi and Muskan Bakshi, 9th graders from San Ramon, were smiling ear to ear as they strolled down Oracle arena corridor, resplendent in their dance costumes. Tonight was special. It was Bollywood night at the Warriors game, and Oracle arena was packed with fans, performers, cheerleaders and players. Ishita and Muskan, identical twins, are part of “Bhangra by the Bay,” a youth dance group.
Video credit: Ritu Marwah
Navpreet Kaur and Aman Singh were at hand to provide support, encouragement and the occasional lipstick touchup.
Photo credit: Ritu Marwah
Pre-game festivities included the group Basmati Raas from Stanford, offering Gujarati fare as a palate cleanser from the preponderantly Hindi film and Punjabi folk dance. The introduction made a clear point of mentioning a hyphenated identity. ”We are A-B-C-D, American Born Confused Desi, but there is so much about India to celebrate right here in America. Like cheering on our favorite cricket teams, playing holi and even celebrating different dance moves.” At this point, a would-be bhangra dancer is brushed aside and the raas garba starts with full abandon.
The Warriors were already leading at half-time, and the crowds roared as the Bhangra Empire filled the stadium with their infectious energy. The award-winning Bhangra Empire have performed for eight seasons with the Golden State Warriors, and the cheering of the crowds rose to a crescendo as the bhangra beats rocked Oracle arena. In 2009, during the Obama presidency, the Bhangra Empire performed at the White House to honor the visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
As the Warriors claimed a decisive victory, 129-83, against the Phoenix Suns, cheerleaders in jewel-colored lehanga cholis danced with joy, echoing the jubilation in the audience. The Warriors had won the basketball game with their consummate skill, and desi dancers had won the hearts of the audience with their joyous tribute to the spectacular imagination of Bollywood.
Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Critic at India Currents.