Bollywood and the NBA: Our Halftime Performance

(February 23rd, 2010)

Bollywood & the NBA – an unlikely combination. But boy did it work!

The Golden State Warriors versus the Philadelphia 76ers game was on Feb. 23 2010 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.  The Warriors were celebrating India Heritage night and we were invited to perform at half time.

A month of excitement and anticipation but only 4 rehearsals, owing to other events we were scheduled to perform at. So those 4 rehearsals were intense, grueling and LONG. We could not fit in the studio where we usually rehearse; we could not fit our entire team of 50, properly spaced, ANYWHERE. So we booked a basketball court in Newark. The court was partitioned, and some folks were still playing, who watched curiously as our seemingly endless dancer crew streamed in. We stretched, positioned, practiced. Then the BEST part. We had to resort to using their PA system and suddenly “Ringa Ringa” started blaring in the basketball court.

The days leading up to the show were filled with being perpetually sore yet joyous, fatigued and excited, as we practiced and practiced. Then, it was SHOWTIME! We arrived at the Oakland Arena (a little damp due to the constant downpour) – an army of 50, ranging from ages 8 to 30, with golden tikas peering from hoodies, long plaits pinned to sweatpants, the usual glitter and glamor, trying to camouflage our costumes (quite unsuccessfully!).  Getting through the arena security was quite hilarious as the metal detectors went off continuously as we entered!

We had already spent a few hours getting ready before we even got to the venue. But there are always loose strands to gel back, stray fabric to be pinned, the usual touch up and the costume team’s infamous INSPECTION (they will detect a gold pin where a silver would be more appropriate, a gray hair tie which promptly has to be changed to black and other – some unmentionable – details which most people would never even notice).

Then finding a place to warm up, which can be challenging with 50 people. People going over different parts of the routine in all possible areas backstage  (including the restroom!). Dancers practicing lifts, flips, the crucial timing for partnering. Dancers dodging flying limbs, flipping bodies, turning circles. And, we were READY. We stood in a circle, holding hands, CONNECTING one last time, before being led out into the court.

We stood in two single files, pressed against the door, watching the stadium and taking in the shear numbers. It was ELECTRIFYING, it was NERVE-WRACKING, the wait, those last few minutes. Deep breathing, running in place to keep ourselves warm, random hugs and arm presses and then the music began. Everything went away. Only the dance remained. There was a WHIRLPOOL of energy as we danced, jumped, ran and turned while 15,000 people watched. We felt our energy echo in the stadium, as the audience cheered. It was EXHILERATING!

None of us had performed in a stadium in front of 15,000 people before. It was an incredible opportunity to share our vision and passion with so many people. It was also great to showcase and represent Indian pop culture at the NBA. Bollywood is rapidly becoming mainstream and we were all extremely proud to represent it at an event of this scale and stature.

People actually said that it was the best half-time performance they had ever seen. As we went back to watch the last quarter of the game, we felt part of something intangible. It is like the roar of the crowd, the excitement of the game, the hysteria of the fans. Something that cannot be explained, only EXPERIENCED.


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