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Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration infuses vitality into Vancouver arts

VIBC has been working to strengthen the Bhangra community in Vancouver since starting in 2004. 

Photo courtesy of Vancouver International Celebration

In 2005, the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration (VIBC) held a short, one-day event in Vancouver. Over the last six years, the society has grown to a week-long festival, and is the largest of its kind in North America.

Bhangra is a dance form and music genre that stemmed from the Punjabi region, accompanied by companies energetic dancing and intricate, vibrant costumes. Today, it is a recognizable and celebrated expression of South Asian culture.

VIBC, a non-profit, organization, has worked with over 120 volunteers, to build respect and vitality for the Bhangra community in Vancouver.

“Our mandate is to showcase and highlight Bhangra as an art form and give it the appreciation it deserves,” said Sukhi Ghuman, the VIBC media relations representative.

The society is entirely volunteer based and funded through dedicated sponsorships and fundraising. Their tenacity for the art of Bhangra, has given Vancouver a platform for dancers to exhibit their talent and diligence to the dance, and the music.

“It is a year commitment. There is no break, and no stop. Because it’s all volunteer-based, it is that much harder, and we are always trying to think of new and inventive ways to get the word out,” explained Sabreena Sanghara, a VIBC volunteer.

“The dedication that everyone puts into for VIBC is amazing. There are no paid positions. We have actual board members, and committee members, and every department can have up to 10 people. And we have over a 100 people, volunteering. We really put our sweat into it, and it really pays off in the end.”

Sanghara, who became interested about the society through Facebook two years ago, has worked hard throughout her time volunteering with VIBC and has recruited more than five friends to join, and help the society grow.

“Our dancers have that love for the dance, and come together to showcase it, and it is really beautiful,” she said.

VIBC is working to connect the South Asian community with Vancouverites through the Bhangra art form.

200 local performers, light up the stages throughout the festival’s events, with brilliant costumes, and music. This year, the festival will run from May 4-14 for audiences of over 10,000.

The dancers range from seven years old to mid-twenties. But in the event's final competition, the competitors are of university age. The competition draws attention to Bhangra teams from all over North America that share the stage to uncover their talent for dance.

“The competition is a event that hosts teams from all over North America. Last year, we tried to get a team from India and that was a big deal for us. Due to some complications, it did fall through, but we’ve had teams from Texas, Florida, Toronto,” said Sanghara. “It’s like a big family.”

Evidently, Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration’s timeless efforts have not gone unnoticed.

In May the Museum of Vancouver will be holding a Bhangra exhibit --- the first of its kind in North America.

The exhibit will focus on the prominent influence of Bhangra in Vancouver and will run from May to September.

“The VIBC mandate is to shatter all barriers through this art form,” said Ghuman.

“We want to strengthen not only the South Asian community, but all walks of life in Vancouver, and evoke the beauty of this art.”

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