Bringing Bollywood to the SF Ethnic Dance Festival

The beautiful Palace of Fine Arts Theater, which is a wonder in itself, the multitude of talented artists we had the honor of sharing the stage with, the energy and vibrancy, the intermingling of cultures on and off the stage…the 32nd San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival was truly a UNIQUE experience.

It was the company’s first show in San Francisco;  and it was the first time that any company had successfully auditioned ‘Bollywood’  in the Ethnic Dance Festival’s 32 YEAR long history.  We were the FINALE ACT in week two of the festival’s four-weekend run and we were also invited to perform at the festival’s gala show.

Applying for the Festival, we were unsure of how Bollywood would be accepted, as folk and classical dance forms usually dominate the festival.  Though Bollywood incorporates these elements, it is an echo of Indian Popculture, and is not usually considered traditional, in the way that Bhatnatyam, Kathak or Garba are. So we were pleasantly surprised when we were asked to audition.

We worked on a performance piece inspired by the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and were so inspired from A.R. Rahman’s deep and enchanting tunes. We started with a more conventional style of Bollywood and gr
adually progressed to contemporary ideas ending with the audience favorite, “Jai Ho.” For the actual show, we added live ‘dhol’ players and a section in the choreography where there was interplay between the dancers and the musicians. As a large group of dancers, we always feel a tremendous sense of synergy on stage…and the dhol players took it to an entirely different level.

It is always exciting for us to share our passion for dance with audiences, especially people who have not necessarily been exposed to Bollywood. It was a rewarding and humbling experience to perform in the Palace of Fine Arts with a stunning lineup of artists. One of our favorite parts of the festival was the curtain call, when each company came on stage and took their bow, to the beat of the dhols. The stage was filled with color, energy and excitement. After the curtain call, the artists would gradually make their way to the lobby where the musicians jammed and the dancers danced. The sinuous hip movements of the Hawaiian dancers, the lithe isolations of the African dancers and of course our abundant energy… a whirlpool of movement as dancers from different cultures interacted with one another and imbibed each other’s movements and danced their heart out!

It was a great learning experience and we were exposed to an abundance of ethnic dance forms and cultures, all existing in the Bay Area dance community. Staying true to our individuality, it was an enriching experience to embrace the diversity, versatility and sheer passion that existed under the umbrella of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. We hope to continue being a part of it for many years to come.

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