Buckeye Fusion Dancers performing at the Legends Bollywood Dance Championship April 13. Credit: Courtesy of Shefali Kumar

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Buckeye Fusion would be competing in Buckeye Mela. Buckeye Fusion will not compete due to a conflict of interest as the competition’s host. The story has been updated with the correct information. 

Buckeye Fusion, an all-female competitive dance group that performs South Asian fusion dance styles, will host a national competition this weekend.

The team will host “Buckeye Mela XIII,” an annual competition at Ohio State where South Asian dance teams from across the country compete to earn a spot at one of two national championships, Shefali Kumar, a third-year in communication and team manager for Buckeye Fusion, said.

Buckeye Fusion will sit out this tournament, due to a conflict of interest as the hos
ts. The team normally competes in “Bollywood Fusion” dance, which Kumar said is a combination of Indian Bollywood dance and other styles, such as hip hop, contemporary, jazz and bhangra, a traditional style of Indian dancing.

The competition is scrutinized by a panel of judges, with each panel specializing in the style of dance the teams perform, Supriya Agarwal, a fourth-year in microbiology and one of the team captains, said. Along with incorporating the various dance styles into their performances, the teams must come up with a storyline.

Kumar said that over the past few years, Buckeye Fusion’s themes have included “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Story of Harley Quinn,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

“Some people go for a fun theme. Some people make their own sad theme. Some people make it creepy. It really just depends as long as you can tell what the story is,” Agarwal said.

Agarwal said the team spends the fall semester creating choreography to present at the competitions leading up to nationals.

The two national championships Buckeye Mela feeds into are hosted by two separate collegiate South Asian dance organizations, Bollywood America and Legends Bollywood, Agarwal said. Qualifying competitions are sponsored by hosting universities along with one or both of the organizations. She said the team earns bid points based on its placings in order to qualify for the national championships.

“They’re nonprofit organizations that organize the whole circuit — they provide an end goal for the teams,” Agarwal said. “Since there’s two national organizations for it, there’s two national competitions, so you may qualify for one but not the other.”

Both championships have historically been male-dominated because of how difficult it is for female dance teams to stand out against male teams, Kumar said.

“When you see a group of 26 girls who are all 5-foot to 5-foot-3 who are all trying to do all these big movements versus seeing a group of guys who are even just 5-foot-8, doing the same stuff could look so much bigger and so much more energetic,” Kumar said. “A lot of times those rubrics we’re put up against generally are not really in our favor.”

In 2016, Buckeye Fusion was one of the first two female teams ever to qualify for a national competition, Kumar said. This past year, the team was the first all-female group to place at a national championship, where it placed third at the Legends Bollywood Dance Championship.

While making it to one of the national competitions is important to the team, Agarwal said as a captain, she’s more focused on making the team fun for dancers.

“My main goal is making sure everyone is having a stress-free, fun time and that they’re actually doing this wholeheartedly,” Agarwal said. “Honestly, if people’s hearts are in it, our end goal to get to nationals and place there will happen.”

For Kumar, continuing the team’s legacy as a strong all-female team in a male-dominated circuit is a main priority.

“A good general idea of what we do is trying to foster a safe and loving community for girls who have been practicing for a while, whether it has been their whole lives, or they’re just getting into it. To be able to share that common passion for dance but also to uplift one another, especially because we are in such a biased circuit,” Kumar said.

Buckeye Mela XIII will start at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Mershon Auditorium. Tickets cost $15 for the general public, $10 for students and $8 for Ohio State students with a valid BuckID.