America’s Got Talent: Top 48 Live Show in L.A.
Coming back from Vegas was like waking from a DREAM. We had made it to the Top 48 out of 70,000 acts, all over America. The import of that began to sink in. We had taken our performance to the next level in Vegas, but we had to OUTSHINE that in L.A.
We took one week to focus on the Ethnic dance Festival in San Francisco and found ourselves back in the studio right after. Once again we began with training and technique, partnering and lifts. We were determined to have at least four couples doing lifts and stunts. This led to several bruises or BATTLE SCARS as we like to call them. Girls slamming on the floor during ‘death drops’, too much momentum in the Swing lifts causing heads to slam on the floor, hands and legs flying in the ‘helicopter lift’ as the boys threw the girls in the air and caught them. There was so much PAIN and soreness, FEAR of injury and sheer exhaustion but our FAITH in each other, our relentless DRIVE and our HUNGER to learn and excel, kept us going.
Then there was a germ of an idea that we began working with. It soon blossomed into an entire act. We designed the sets, props and the overall vision. It was based on a song from the musical “Moulin Rouge.” After hours of conceptualization and discussion, we submitted this idea to the America’s Got Talent producers. We were told that the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was almost IMPOSSIBLE to use due to copyright issues. It was frustrating news! We were BACK where we started from! We began researching and identifying music that would work with the concept. “Bombay Dreams” seemed apt but we were told to add a more popular song. We rejected “California Girls” and other songs that were suggested to us and finally chose Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump it.”
We combined Contemporary Bollywood with Swing and Hip Hop Dance-inspired movements to create our Top 48 act. We had props, risers and a plethora of movement. We got mock risers built for the rehearsals, even though the actual levels in L.A. were being provided by the AGT Team. We actually rented a studio in Fremont so we could accommodate our entire team of 22 and finally rehearse the entire work together and not in sections, as we had done earlier, due to a lack of space.
Brian and I began taking aerial classes for the opening section of “Bombay Dreams” and had a short routine on aerial silks that would open the piece. The weeks flew by and before we knew it, it was time to leave.
L.A. Week (Prepations, Rehearsals and Interviews)
We arrived in L.A. just as the results from the first week were being announced. We met Future Funk and Defying Gravity and slowly found out who else had made it to the semi-finals. Simultaneously, we began wondering who we would be competing with. As the night unfolded, we met AscenDance, Ronith and SF Cheer. There were still 8 more performers in our week, who we would meet next morning.
Unlike the inertia filled days of waiting in Vegas, L.A. was literally lights, camera, ACTION! Every morning we woke up and convened in the parking lot to warm up together. Once we got to the studios, there were wardrobe meetings, hair and makeup trials, with the top people in the industry. Unlike the Vegas round, for which we had sown our own foot accessories for 14 girls, the wardrobe crew provided us with gorgeous
accessories which they fit for EACH dancer. They worked with our Creative Director Amrita Shastri to get the desired look. We didn’t have to spend hours curling our hair; someone actually STYLED it for us!
We felt extremely PRIVILEGED! But being dancers, the most incredible experience of all, were the CHOREOGRAPHY sessions.We had BRIAN FRIEDMAN of “So You Think You Can Dance” fame, and his creative crew consisting of Chris Dupre and Tucker,work with us. We also spotted Mia Michaels, outside the studio and were rendered SPEECHLESS. It was extremely HUMBLING and HEARTENING to get the appreciation of these inspiring choreographers.
Time and time again, a one hour session would be over in 20 minutes, because they felt we were on top of our stuff. They barely made a suggestion, and we incorporated it INSTANTLY. Of course, they didn’t know that every evening we booked a studio and rehearsed for hours, on our own as well.
They gave valuable inputs enhancing and editing our choreography, and then we were told that the aerial section could not happen due to logistical issues. So we needed a NEW opening! Meanwhile, we found out that the stage had a grate around it, so dancers were getting cut and grazed. We had to RESTAGE things. It was extremely TRYING, and physically and mentally exhausting. We had to to do the piece repeatedly, for choreographers, camera angles, Nick Cannon and whoever else needed to see it. But through all the hard work, we were dazzled by the talent and professionalism around us, not to mention the production value of the show.
The production of the show BLEW us away. The lighting was absolutely STUNNING and they were willing to provide all kinds of special effects. We were really excited to be able to use Pyros, as most theaters have severe restrictions for the use of fire. The LED screens, the backdrop parting in the center to let performers through, and the entire setup belonged to a different league of performance production. We were determined to do justice to it.
In addition to the our self-imposed pressure to be the BEST we were capable of being, there were the other fabulous artists. We knew we had really tough competitors but spending time together every day, sharing stories, laughter and tears and being crazy as artists must be, we developed deep FRIENDSHIPS. There was an environment of mutual respect, appreciation and support. Reality TV competitions often show cutthroat competitiveness and cattiness, but for us the experience was quite different.
Top 48 Live Show
After days of rehearsals, shooting and interviews, the performance day dawned on us. The previous day all the girls (even the little ones!) went to get manicures and pedicures. It was deliciously relaxing and a relief to be away from the preparation mania for a day. Not to mention we had sparkling clean and MATCHING finger and toe nails by the end of it!
The next day we had early start. We warmed up in the parking lot, trying to avoid the butterflies that had lodged themselves in our stomachs. The air was thick with anxiety as we went to the studio to get our performance slots. After a morning filled with hair and makeup appointments, it was time! We lined up backstage, just as the audiences were lining up to enter the studio. It was heartwarming to see so many SUPPORTERS who had come from the Bay Area to watch and cheer for us. It is hard to explain that exquisite feeling, when we saw FAMILIAR faces in that tense environment!
We were early in the lineup but did hear some buzzing. The judges were being predictably HARSH. We stretched for the last few minutes, held hands, hugged and then we were led on to the stage. The show began with the visuals of our journey from the L.A. Audition, to Las Vegas and then to the Top 48 show! The music began and at that instant, the dance TOOK OVER. The movement was PART of us. 1 minute and 30 seconds was ALL we had to show out talent and win peoples’ hearts.
Drenched in sweat, we lined up in front of the judges for their comments. They kept contradicting each other! “More traditional dance..more Black eyed Peas, you will definitely be coming back…if you are lucky enough to come back…” and so on. Piers and Sharon were impressed; Howie said he preferred our earlier routines. The audiences however, gave us a STANDING OVATION. We left the stage, with MIXED feelings, and came out to meet Mona. Her opinion was more important than any of the judges’ and she was PROUD of us. That was all that mattered!
We flocked to the feedback monitor outside where the other performers cheered for us. There were actually a few people in tears who said we had touched their hearts. It was MAGICAL! Soon we went back to the hotel to watch the live show. We knew we had a lot of support, but would it be ENOUGH? We saw comments on Facebook of people frantically voting for us; there was even a group created in our support!
That night was a difficult one, filled with the anxiety of anticipation. The hours crawled by but the day of the results show did eventually arrive.
The Results Show
Dressed once again in full costume and makeup, we sat backstage with all the other performers. SF Cheer began singing “Lean on Me” and eventually every person in the room was SINGING. The PERFECT way to ease tension! We all sang our hearts out until it was time for silence. The producers asked us to sit with our groups because we all had INTERMINGLED. Half of our lot were with SF Cheer, AscenDance were with Wreckless, Strong Man sat with Antonio Restivo. Slowly we found our way back to our spots, the numbness seeping in once again.
The show began and we were the very FIRST group called on stage with Ronith and AscenDance. We knew AscenDance had tremendous support but there was still a glimmer of hope. We walked on stage; some of us already in tears. (Piers always commented on our smiles, he didn’t realize we teared up almost as often!) Nick Cannon asked the judges their opinions. In retrospect, for all the other groups, the judges had stated their opinion on who they thought had made it, before the audience voting results were announced. In our case, Piers’ only said who he thought had NOT made it. That did not change anything! The results were announced and AscenDance made it through. We left the stage, sad and disappointed, but knowing we had done EVERYTHING we could have, given the constraints we were working with.
The interviews did NOT stop. We were asked how we felt, what we thought, where we were going and so on. We were disappointed! we knew Bollywood was still a niche form, but we also knew that we had taken one step forward in making it more MAINSTREAM. We had also stayed true to ourselves. People had urged us to make up stories, create drama and add the emotional spice to gain more camera time and votes. But that belongs in Bollywood movies! We did not want to COMPROMISE. At the same time, it hurt that we had given it our all, but it wasn’t enough…
America’s Got Talent had captured our imagination, time and energy for so many months that there were this feeling of emptiness. This question of “WHAT NOW?” It was the end, or so we thought at that point. Now, several months later, we know, it was not the end but the BEGINNING. A Beginning that led us to new horizons, renewed visions and new journeys. America’s Got Talent gave us national exposure and allowed us to reach audiences, we would never have been able to reach otherwise. But it gave us so much MORE. It helped us push ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. We have always been dreamers but we began to stretch even our dreams.
To watch our Top 48 Live Show video click here
To see more pictures of our Top 48 Live Show experience click here