Bringing Bollywood to Seattle
Even though we have ventured to other states to perform, most of our work has been focused in the Bay Area. Needless to say, we were extremely excited to be invited to perform at Everett College in Seattle. Not only was this out of state but in the college circuit, an avenue we hadn’t really explored. In addition, this was going to be a combination of a performance, a workshop, and a Q & A session!
The Everett programming department wanted something more traditional for this cultural exchange so we chose our acts accordingly. Our challenge: bring Bollywood to the city of Everett. A traditional filmy act, an ‘item medley’, a bhangra act and last but not least was our America’s Got Talent act combined with the crowd favorite “Jai Ho.” We also had with us our secret weapon and emcee Akhil Joondeph, make up artist Ruby Walia and the dynamic belly dancer Ashley Lopez, who flew straight from Oregon to join us. Dhol players from Seattle also joined us on stage for this mega event.
Part of the team flew to Seattle the day before the show to start setting up in the theater early on Friday morning: meeting the production & technical crew, talking about fly systems, spot lights, green rooms and so much else. The rest of the group reached Seattle the morning of the show and went straight to the theater. We were welcomed by the enthusiastic Everertt College team and we got to see their fabulous theater that could seat over a 1000 people.
After a quick technical rehearsal we started our ritual: curling hair, getting our makeup and putting our elaborate costumes and accessories in place for several quick changes between acts.
Before we knew it, it was time for the performance.
Adrenaline, energy, excitement! It was so encouraging to see a full theater – as we weren’t sure how many people would be interested in seeing a Bollywood show. Traditionally our audiences are pre-dominantly the Indian community. In Seattle, we had a majority of non-Indians – and what a responsive and interactive crowd they turned out to be! It was amazing to share Indian pop culture and our vision of Bollywood with them and it was exciting to see them enjoy the performance and be able to relate to the energy of Bollywood. Their enthusiastic support, encouraging comments and roaring applause made our day!
When we started the dance workshop on stage, people flocked on to the stage, excitement written all over their face. From toddlers to seniors – the stage was absolutely packed! Amrita Shastri guided them through a simple Bollywood routine. The routine incorporated signature Bollywood moves like thumkas and stomps, and soon the entire stage was pulsating with energy. We chose one of our customized Bombay Jam mixes, that combined “Where’s the party tonight” with a Black Eyed Peas song, and we all rocked the stage together. There is nothing like sharing the joy of dance with so many people, especially such a dynamic group who eased into the Bollywood groove so effortlessly!
Then there was a Q & A session and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of questions that people had. Amrita Shastri chatted with the audience and answered questions ranging from questions about specific acts and the preparation involved, to those about Bollywood as a dance form. The most hilarious question was someone asking, “Is kissing not allowed in Bollywood?”
Another highlight of the evening was the emcee Akhil Joondeph’s presentation about Bollywood. With the help of audio visuals, he discussed the evolution of Bollywood, from its humble beginnings to where it has become a global presence. The black and white movie era, to the rock and roll of the seventies, the action packed eighties, the domination of the romantic movies in the nineties and the melting pot that contemporary Bollywood has become. Easily winning the hearts of every member in the audience, six-year old Akhil was incredibly cute but also poised and articulate, a true performer. He brought to life the history and evolution of Bollywood, the grandeur of the past and the eclecticism of the present.
Overall, it was just a fantastic experience. The support that the Everett Community provided us was wonderful. They were really appreciative of our work just as we were of their professionalism. In a blink, it was time to leave and costumes were folded and returned, backdrops struck and everything packed up.
The day after the show, we had the day all to ourselves so we set out to explore the beautiful city of Seattle after a lazy morning and a leisurely breakfast. From the first-ever Starbucks to the breathtaking views at Needle Point, the lively downtown, the quaint Pike Place Market and the delicious food, Seattle captured our hearts.
We hope to go back and continue to spread the love for Bollywood dance and entertainment!
Comments on the Mona Khan Company fan page:
“Excellent Performance last night! It was fun working with you guys, and watching the show.” – Jacob Padgett
“I loved your performance last night, I brought my sister in-law along and we had a great time!
I think we all wish we had an opportunity to learn and express ourselves through dance, it was very inspiring. I bet you would be very successful if you branched out in this area =0)” – Maitita Ozalez A
“Best show EVER this weekend in Washington. Always honored to be featured with this incredible troupe…and what a fabulous audience too!!!” – Ashley Lopez