UM-Dearborn student competes with, learns from Bhangra dance team

November 21, 2017

Mechanical and bioengineering student Jasnoor Singh is a member of the award-winning UM-Ann Arbor dance team.

Jasnoor Singh and the U-M Bhangra dance team
Jasnoor Singh and the UM Bhangra dance team

Jasnoor Singh believes in second chances—and even thirds. As a mechanical and bioengineering student who has worked as a research assistant, he knows the importance of trial and error: It’s how success is found.

But, for Singh, that lesson goes beyond the lab. And it’s helped the sophomore discover one of his now-favorite pastimes—Bhangra dance.

Singh had tried the Punjab, India folk dance several times as a child at his parents’ urging, and he didn’t connect with it. But when he picked it back up as an older teen, something had changed.

“For many Punjabi kids, it’s something parents push on them. When I was 8 or so, I was not enthusiastic about it even after doing two or three performances. But when I got involved again when I was older, I found purpose in the dance. Something clicked because I was open to it,” he said. “It’s self expression, collaboration, culture sharing and, overall, joy. When you perform, you are smiling. The audience is smiling. You can feel the energy. It becomes part of you.”

Today, Singh showcases his love for Bhangra dance on the award-winning University of Michigan dance team. Making the team as a UM-Dearborn freshman, Singh has traveled across the nation representing his university.

Singh recently returned from a second-place win at the international Boston Bhangra Competition, where his entire family was in the audience cheering for the Michigan team’s performance.

Wearing a vibrant orang Bhangra costume that was made in India with a custom Block M, Singh said the cheers from the nearly 3,000 fans in the audience kept the 14-person team energized throughout their number.

“You feed off of the audiences’ energy. If you haven’t seen a Bhangra competition, you should go,” he said. “There are people leaning against the stage, you can feel the vibration of the drums, you can hear cheering for all the teams. It brings out so much good.”

Singh knew about the UM-Ann Arbor team before college, which is well known in the Bhangra circuit. But he didn’t know if UM-Dearborn students—where he planned to attend because of proximity to his family and the quality of engineering programs—could join.

“When I tried out, they made it clear that we are all one University of Michigan—the campus location didn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is skill or potential, team fit and love of Bhangra.”

After college, Singh would like to work in the biomedical field. And he knows he’ll take the lessons he’s learning from Bhangra—putting in more than you expect to get out, working as a team to achieve optimal results, and continuing to give opportunities another chance—with him.

“Bhangra has changed my life,” he said. “It’s shown me what giving something another try—a sincere try when you truly are committed to the effort—can do.”