New York, N.Y. — Decked out in vibrant hues and jamming to Indian beats, 13 members of Cornell University’s Bhangra dance team danced their way onto the Today Show Wednesday.
Their performance was part of “Today’s Got Talent”, a competition for the final remaining spot on America’s Got Talent. Out of thousands of entries, Cornell Bhangra of one of three finalists to make it onto the Today Show.
Their final hurdle? Earn the highest number of votes in an online poll to win a chance to compete for the $1 million grand prize on America’s Got Talent.
(The poll is open until Tuesday. Correction: A previous story said voting was open only today. Click here to vote for Cornell Bhangra!)
Armaan Kapoor, co-president of Cornell Bhangra, said that his experience on the set of the Today Show was “completely surreal.”
“It didn’t hit us until we got off the stage and looked over and there were tons of cameras,” Kapoor said. “It was awesome though. It might have helped that there weren’t that many people in the audience — there were only around 200 or so.”
The dance group originally auditioned for America’s Got Talent, but they were unable to continue in the competition because of scheduling conflicts, according to Darah Barnes, co-president of Cornell Bhangra.
“The producers saw our video at one of the past competitions where we won World’s Best Bhangra Crew and then emailed us and asked if we could perform on America’s Got Talent,” Barnes said. “We went ahead and auditioned and actually made it through the auditions to the next round.”
Barnes said that they pulled out of the competition because the second round coincided with Cornell finals week — but another opportunity soon popped up.
“Shortly after we dropped out, the producers contacted us and said told us about ‘Today’s Got Talent’,” Barnes said. “It was our second chance. It was incredible.”
Cornell Bhangra entered an audition tape and beat out thousands of other videos to earn a spot on the Today Show.
Kapoor said that the team was already planning their next performance.
“We knew exactly what we needed to bring to the Today Show and we have a lot of tricks up our sleeves,” Kapoor said. “Usually, our performances are around eight minutes long, but we’re lucky that the sets on America’s Got Talent are only a minute and a half. We have just enough time to get the dancing in, get the gimmicks in, get the tumbling in and leave the audience with a lasting impression.”
Barnes said that Cornell Bhangra “absolutely” has a chance at winning America’s Got Talent because it is different from a typical talent act.
“Bhangra is so unique and so different than what you usually see on America’s Got Talent, which really increases our chances,” Barnes said. “The dancing is incredibly upbeat and happy, the costumes are colorful and vibrant, the guys are wearing really interesting turbans. When we walk onto stage, it looks really cool.”
At Cornell, the Bhangra team draws over 3000 audience members each year to their spring show, Pao Bhangra.
“We’re very respected on campus,” Kapoor said. “We are not only the largest show on campus, but also the largest Bhangra exhibition in North America.”
Traditionally, Bhangra is an upbeat Indian dance that celebrates the crop festival. The Cornell Bhangra team also incorporates some modern elements into their routines, like stunts and hip hop, according to Kapoor.
“Bhangra means to be intoxicated with joy,” Barnes said. “Smiling during the routine is critical to Bhangra. The point is to be excited and joyful and happy.”
Kapoor and Barnes expressed their gratitude for performing at the Today Show.
“When Darah and I were were freshmen, we never believed that we would one day have this kind of opportunity,” Kapoor said.
Voting is open until noon today, and the winner of “Today’s Got Talent” will be announced during the America’s Got Talent live results show tomorrow at 9:00 p.m.