If you found yourself walking down Locust this Monday (as one does), you may have noticed a group of animated, coordinated men trying––and likely succeeding––to get your attention with their dance moves. They are Penn Dhamaka, and they are the first and only all–male dance troupe at Penn. In the rare case that you didn’t notice their bold, athletic moves and their blasting music then, you should definitely take note now.
Penn Dhamaka's dances combine Western and South Asian dance styles to create pieces that are uniquely energetic and dynamic. By performing everything from Step and Hip–Hop to Garba, Raas, Filmi and Bhangra, these guys truly don't miss a beat. Their versatility is part of what makes them so captivating to watch.
"When I was a senior in high school the person who was chair [of Dhamaka] was from my town, and he happened to be a super social–media active person, so I had seen a lot about the team before I even got to Penn…so I was really excited about it initially. So before I even got here I kind of had my eyes on it,” said junior Akhil Chakravarti, the current Artistic Director. “[I wanted to] do something new in college. I spent a lot of time growing up playing musical instruments and things like that, and then I also played a few sports like tennis and basketball, so I think dance is kind of an interesting hybrid between performance musically and [athletically]. I think that’s one of the things that drew me towards dance initially.”
And, although dance is obviously the central focus of the group, the social aspect is also key. "Coming into college I just wanted to join a team, like a community in general…it was a lot less about the dance and a lot more about the people,” added Aakash Jagdale, the Chair of Dhamaka. “I learned to love the dance as it happened."
“This is actually the first year in the while that we’ve had a very full team… this year we have five [seniors] and we have a very strong upper class,” said Aakash, “For the younger guys it’s something so new, it’s a group and there’s so much to learn…I think [the underclassmen] enjoy the sense of closeness we have...that we can just come to the house and just play video games together and stuff like that on any random day." The group provides a community for one another.
As Chair, Aakash handles a lot of the logistics and publicity, while Akhil, as Artistic Director, focuses on the dance itself. However, this year “the entire board in general has been like one big unit that does everything,” said Aakash. “Everyone [on the board] has different strengths,” added Akhil, “and the kind of the way that we’ve gone about it this year is [by utilizing] individual strengths as much as possible.”
Those individual strengths unite during performances.
"Every year when we have our show, that’s the thing that all of us created together. And I think that’s super important," said Akhil. "All these things, like the walks home from practice, like late night studying, [they] all kind of tie into one larger thing we’re working towards.
This year, the title of their show is Shipwrecked, and it debuts Friday, February 24th. “The concept is we, as Dhamaka, have ended up on a random island, per some ship wreckage, and the whole show is basically detailing our experiences... What we try to do with each piece is like bring to life a different aspect that we’d imagine ourselves experiencing on that island,” said Akhil. “We’re very excited for next weekend…it’s the culmination of a lot of what we’ve been putting together.”
“I definitely do think the value is a lot more in the friendships I made… I think overall what I’m gonna take away is just having that group of people that I’m really close with and have fun with,” said Aakash.
Dhamaka’s “Shipwrecked” will be performed on Friday, February 24th at 7:30 and Saturday February 25th at 1:30 and 7:30 at the Iron Gate Theatre. Tickets are $8 for daytime, $10 for night time and $2 extra at the door.