Spotted: Bhangra Empire in November’s Issue of Harper’s Bazaar With Michelle Obama

First Lady, Michelle Obama is pictured above with Clifton Brown & Constance Stamatiou of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Moneesha Muneet Gill, Navjit Singh, Omer Mirza {Team Manager}, Michelle Puneet Gill, and Jackie Thind of BHANGRA EMPIRE; and Nicole A. Turchi, Elizabeth Whalen, Namaad Jackson, Tricia Brown and Eric Scott of Joy of Motion Dance Center.

First Lady, Michelle Obama is pictured above with Clifton Brown & Constance Stamatiou of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Moneesha Muneet Gill, Navjit Singh, Omer Mirza {Team Manager}, Michelle Puneet Gill, and Jackie Thind of BHANGRA EMPIRE; and Nicole A. Turchi, Elizabeth Whalen, Namaad Jackson, Tricia Brown and Eric Scott of Joy of Motion Dance Center.

We can’t help but love the First Lady’s love for arts and culture, especially South Asian culture. Divanee chatted with  Bhangra Empire Team Captain, Omer Mirza about meeting Mrs. Obama, the White House, and what’s coming up next for the group.

“If you can walk into the White House and come up to the first lady and introduce yourself, if you can perform in front of the president of the United States in the East Room, there is nothing that you can’t do.”

-Michelle Obama on instilling hope & opportunity to her talented guests.

[via Harper's Bazaar]

And dance team sensation Bhangra Empire did just that. Calm and cool – clad in traditional Punjabi garb, California’s Bay Area Bhangra team walked into the White House, performed for the president and chatted it up with the First Lady – not once, but twice. Featured in the November issue of Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot with the First Lady  in the piece Michelle Obama: America’s Got Talent, there really is nothing this team can’t do.

It’s evident that Michelle Obama has an eye for exquisite taste and details through her  classy-chic sophisticated style, her long-term appreciation for music and arts, and her world-class palette for international talent – only confirming that Bhangra Empire’s selection for this shoot is that much more prestigious.

First Lady in her own L’wren Scott dress and blue kitten heels with musicians Jason Yoder, Antonio Madruga, Elijah Easton, Zach Brown, and Kush Abadey and glass artists Carmen Salazar & Celeb Siemon.

Bay Area’s Bhangra Empire is now celebrating its second opportunity to visit the White House. The first time was to perform for the First State Dinner for President Obama and the Prime Minister of India. The team has competed in several different renowned competitions, teaches dance classes, and constantly comes up with innovative choreography – all while maintaining full-time professional jobs and/or school.  The team currently has 25 members.

From First Place Trophies to Presidential pictures, Bhangra Empire is slowly but surely building its Empire in the western world. We applaud their skills and talent, bringing traditional South-Asian Punjabi dance to the forefront of American culture.

We asked Team Captain/Dancer/Manager/Choreographer and Dance Perfectionist Omer Mirza (he’s in the blue costume far above)  a few questions, and here’s the low down on the exclusive {informal} interview:

You get to wear many hats (including pagris!) with all your responsibilities – you must be overwhelmed with all the emails you receive! How did you react when Harper’s Bazaar contacted you for this shoot?

Mirza: To tell you the truth, I had never heard of the publication before (I’m not a chick) but after asking some of the girls on the team, I called back since it seemed like a great opportunity. To be invited back to the White House and to be hand selected by the First Lady was such a huge honor. It’s kind of funny though, a lot of people don’t know that we’re just a group of college students and young working professionals who dance together. We get contacted asking us if we have offices in India, or the UK, or Australia.

We are so proud of this photo shoot and being hand selected by the First Lady herself! Congrats!  It looks like the love extends globally – I noticed you have quite the fan following per your guest book on your website.

Mirza: Oh yeah, a huge chunk of our fans are from India.  We’ve seen like 50 YouTube videos of people just copying our dances move for move in India.

So they stole your moves & choreography???

Mirza: Steal is a very strong word, but It’s all good… imitation is the biggest form of flattery. We don’t mind, we encourage it. We’re happy to be role models and inspiration to dancers all over the world.

So what was it like being back at the White House again?

Mirza: Well it was definitely different this time around, since we weren’t performing this time and only there for a photo shoot we were all more relaxed and got to enjoy the trip a little bit more than the last time.

Last time everything happened so fast we really didn’t get a chance to enjoy it.

What’s next for Bhangra Empire now?

We’re still on cloud 9 from all the great things thus far. We’re just trying to live in the moment, and take it day by day. We feel very blessed with our success, and will continue to keep moving forward. We’re really trying to focus on bringing Bhangra to audiences that haven’t been exposed to it yet. We offer classes throughout the Bay Area and have a few performances lined up locally with a predominantly non South Asian crowd. We also have a competition coming up in Boston next month. It’s the beginning of the competition season, so as of now, we’re just practicing, working hard, and making sure we take things to the next level.

Also, check them out featured on my blog here: Empire State of Mind.

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