Jigme Wangdi

As the Gokab dance competition ended on 28 September, the audience was left amazed and inspired. The dancers themselves were motivated to further hone their skills.

Gokab was started to create a platform for the Bhutanese youth to showcase their skills and abilities through dance. Today, after eight years since its inception, the number of youth participating in the competition has increased, and the quality too.

The competition allows youth of all ages to display their passion for dancing in its many styles. The most popular form, however, remains street dance, which encompasses various styles that fall under the Hip Hop dance culture.

This year, Gokab had around 80 contestants who performed in eight different categories. Karma Samdrup, an avid supporter of Gokab and also the host of the show, said that there has been a massive improvement in the choreography of dance moves among the participants. “The number of female participants has also increased this year,” he added, “The youngest participant was 9 years old.”

Karma said that it is difficult to find supporters for an event like the Gokab dance competition. “Our main supporter has always been Coca-Cola,” he said. “The biggest support we need to take Gokab to the next level is funding.”

He said that young participants give their all but owing to financial limitations, they cannot pursue dancing as a career.

Karma said that support should come from home as well. “I don’t blame the parents because every parent wants what is best for their child. But the general way of thinking that a child being a dancer, singer or artist cannot provide a life for themselves is running thin. Times are changing,” he said.

There were participants from a number of dzongkhags.

Tenzin Namgay, the overall coordinator of Gokab, said: “The world is taking the dance to new heights. Breakdancing has been included in the 2024 Olympics.”

Organisers say that most of the competitors come from disadvantaged families and so even if the youth want to pursue dancing as a career, they cannot do so. Consequently, they quit dancing and find other work.

Ashish Rai, 26, is a passionate dancer who has been dancing for the last 10 years.

“I wasn’t good in school, but after finishing Class 10, I wanted to continue my studies. Then I had some family troubles which made me realize that I could not support my family through dancing,” he said, “I tried competing but unless you win, you are left with nothing.”

Ashish participated in Gokab dance competitions in the past but owing to his financial condition, he started working as a tattoo artist. “I tried coming back into the dancing last year but I wasn’t ready. This year I am,” he said.

Ashish is a member of the popular dance crew Druk Generation which won the Gokab competition three times.

Chenrig Jamtsho, 20, has been dancing for the last 10 years. He competed as a solo performer. Chenrig runs a restaurant in town with his family. Ashish and Chenrig are both into the ‘Krump’ style of dancing. “People think that Krump is a very aggressive style of dancing. But this style has helped people with anger issues and even depression as it enables us to express our emotions on the stage,” Chenrig said.

Anish said: “Every dancer has their own background and their own stories. Dancing has helped us create our own identity.”

Kinga Tshering Rinchen, 23, came all the way from Trongsa to participate in the competition. He said that he began dancing when he was in Class 9 and he is passionate about it.

“I came here to show my skills as a dancer. I don’t have a crew and that is why I am performing in the solo category,” he said.  He added, “I started watching Gokab shows online and was inspired by so many of the dancers. Watching them dance made me want to become a dancer.”

He said he would like to inspire younger audiences in the same way.