Two or three times a week, eight college students come together at the UC Davis Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts to chak de phattey.
Loosely translated from Punjabi, that means to "bring down the house!"
The students are members of Virse de Waris, or VDW, an all-male bhangra dance team from throughout the Central Valley with a goal to bring traditional bhangra into the spotlight.
Bhangra, a folk dance that originated in the Punjab region of India to celebrate the harvest, has grown into a standard celebratory dance performed at weddings and other festive occasions.
In recent years, bhangra has made its way into pop culture, with groups such as Bhangra Empire having performed both on "America's Got Talent" and at President Barack Obama's first state dinner. Most recently, red- and yellow-outfitted bhangra dancers performed an original piece at the Olympic closing ceremony in London.
Collegiate teams across the nation perform a modern version of bhangra, often adding the beat of a heavy dhol, or drum, to popular Western songs.
Teams like VDW the name means Guardians of Tradition have rejected the evolution and are attempting to take bhangra back to its roots by performing to traditional music by a live band.
"It's harder to get people our age to do traditional bhangra because this style is more common around older people who remember seeing it done in India," said Herman Grewal, one of the team's founders. "But the reason our team works is because the people we do have are unified by a real interest in sticking to tradition."
Grewal, a rising senior in political science at UC Davis, started the team with his cousin Gurshant Grewal in 2008, after training in traditional bhangra at a dance academy in Fremont.
"We brought together people from older teams that had fallen apart," said Herman Grewal. "So for a new team, we had more experienced dancers than a new team typically does."
Although the team started off as what the bhangra dance circuit describes as a "music team," meaning they performed their routines to recorded music, they knew from the beginning that they wanted live music.
"We still followed the structure for traditional bhangra when we danced to recorded music," said Grewal, "but our goal was always to do traditional live bhangra with instruments and a singer."
After finding themselves a singer, dholi (drum player) and players for the chimta (musical tongs), tumbi (single string instrument) and algozey (wind instrument), the team was able to transition to a "live team," with dancers performing alongside their own band.
"Ideally, your hope would be that you're going to have your band there to practice with you. The main person we need is the dholi (drummer)," said Grewal. "If we know he can't make it, then we try to get some recordings of him playing."
The team practices its energetic routines on average three times a week, for about two hours, usually late at night or in the early morning to accommodate the schedules of students at scattered schools.
VDW also strives to maintain traditional appearances. All of its costumes are designed and made in India, via Skype conversations with tailors halfway across the world.
"There's a certain aesthetic that traditional teams have to have in order to be taken seriously," Grewal said. "So we get everything made in India."
VDW has competed at 12 dance competitions throughout California and has placed at 10 competitions. With the exception of one performance, half of which was done to live music, all of the team's awards come from fully live performances.
They're also taking steps to make sure the tradition doesn't end with them. Six months ago, members of VDW helped start Virse de Waris Juniors, or V-Dub Juniors, a traditional bhangra team for Central Valley middle and high schoolers.
Unlike VDW, V-Dub Juniors is a coed team that dances to recorded music.
Its coach, Preet Chahal, a sophomore at Sacramento City College and member of VDW, said that despite being a "music team," V-Dub Juniors are still taught to follow the traditional structure of bhangra, and also practice a few times per week.
"The great part is seeing how excited these kids are about the dancing," said Chahal. "They want to do it for themselves and for the culture. It's not like they're doing it for their parents."
V-Dub Juniors have performed about five times, and many of the young dancers are grateful for the opportunity to get closer to their culture, said the Juniors' unofficial captain Karan Lachhar.
Lachhar, 15, said the team's typical performance day schedule includes a visit to the local Sikh temple where they "pray and get our blessings before the performance." Sikhism originated in Punjab, and all eight of the junior team's current members are Sikh.
"Bhangra brought me much closer to my heritage and all of my family's traditions," she said. "It's brought me closer to my real family, and now this team is like family."