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Buckeye Mela puts winners on the fastrack to national competition

Buckeye Mela performers dance during a routine at the 9th annual gathering of the event. The 10th annual Buckeye Mela kicks off this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Credit: Shantanu Sakaram

Ohio State’s annual Southeast Asian dance competition will give competing teams the opportunity to take their skills beyond Columbus on Saturday.

Buckeye Mela, the largest intercollegiate bhangra and Bollywood fusion dance competition in the Midwest, is back for its 11th year. This year, teams will be competing for a spot in Legends, the national competition that will be held in California on April 14.  

The weekend-long event will showcase dance ensembles from across the nation, including teams from the University of Georgia and Boston University. Eight Bollywood fusion and eight bhangra teams were selected for Saturday’s show from more than 80 auditions.

“The whole board was at the director’s house watching audition videos for hours,” said Shreya Patel, outreach chair for Buckeye Mela and a third-year in health information management and systems. “After that day we all had enough of each other and I’m pretty sure we didn’t see each other for a week.”

Bhangra is a classic folk dance originating from northern India, while fusion combines Bollywood dances with hip-hop. Ohio State has its own fusion dance teams, but to avoid biased judging, they will not be allowed to perform at Buckeye Mela. Instead, Ohio State’s team will perform at other Melas across the country in order to qualify for the Legends competition –– the official Bollywood dance championship.  

Sanjana Naidu, co-director of Buckeye Mela and a fourth-year in geographic information sciences, said Mela is one of the largest philanthropic events held at Ohio State. Each team participating in the event has to raise money for the year’s charity. The charity for this year is Pratham USA, a nonprofit aimed at providing education to children in India.

“We raised $4,500 for them last year, and this year we’re hoping to donate more,” Naidu said. “We don’t have an exact number because we don’t know how many show tickets we will sell or how much money teams will raise, but the goal is always more.”

Each team has to create a GoFundMe for the charity, and the team that raises the most money will be awarded an incentive of 10 extra minutes of tech time, which will allow the team to run through its entire set on Saturday morning.

“We feel really good about this year’s event, we’ve definitely over-prepared,” Naidu said. “We definitely feel this week going in that a lot of the big-ticket items are taken care of.”

Buckeye Mela has been around for many years but it wasn’t always this popular. Before its fifth year, it held the competition only for Ohio State teams, but after that, the competition was open for anyone to join.

Every year Mela awards the first- and second-place dance teams in both bhangra and fusion with cash prizes. First place receives $2,000 while second place receives $500. New this year, however, Buckeye Mela plans on awarding third place with a cash prize as well, though the amount is still being decided.

“We just want our dancers to have the best experience and I believe this year we will bring that,” Patel said.

Buckeye Mela will take place at the Wexner Center’s Mershon Auditorium at 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8 for students and $15 for the general public and are available at https://www.buckeyemela.com/show.html.

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