Archive for the Shows Category

Why “Soch” ?

Posted in Dance, Shows on March 17, 2014 by Mona Khan Company

ImageWhy organize a show with such limited seating, with no production, simple costuming and makeup, in a small venue? Why “Soch” ?

We love the scale & grandeur of our showcases. But it was time to do something different. Something raw and gritty. Something which was just about pure dance. Something where we wanted to say something. Something about strength and vulnerability, destructive relationships and rape, about love and loss, about beauty and pain.

An intimate setting where the audiences can hear the breath of the dancers, where there is no proscenium to divide the performers and those who watch them, where the audiences are almost part of the performance.

For those who have seen our shows in the past this will be something vastly different. Even the works that they have seen before will be transformed, just by existing in this space. For the performers, it is the challenge of performing in a small space, of having the audience so close that you can reach out and touch them, and of finding truth and honesty in their performance.

Photographer: Rob Kunkle

Photographer: Rob Kunkle

We are excited about “Soch.” We are nervous about “Soch.” It is something unlike anything we have ever done. It is an experiment. It is an attempt to break the barrier between art and entertainment. To present the dances as is, without any embellishments, any enhancements. There are no vibrant backdrops, no larger than life sets, no dramatic costumes. It is just about those few singular moments captured through dance. The emotions of the dancers, the visions of the choreographers, the intent of the dance works.

Photographer: Rob Fadtke

Photographer: Rob Fadtke

“Soch” is raw and vulnerable, it is an attempt to engage with reality, question certain ideas and dance not just with our bodies, but our very minds and souls.

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The Art of Collaboration

Posted in Dance, Shows on October 15, 2013 by Mona Khan Company

Collaboration. It is beautiful, exciting and exhausting. There are already so many logistics to deal with within the company

Emeryville Taiko drummers featured in "America's got Bollywood," Spring Showcase 2013

Emeryville Taiko drummers featured in “America’s got Bollywood,” Spring Showcase 2013

so why encourage collaboration even though it requires tremendous coordination, more people who need to be on the same page, extra time and a lot more effort? Because there is something so very unique and extremely special that comes out of the interaction of several visions.

At Mona Khan Company, we are constantly working with guest instructors, guest choreographers, musicians and production artists, besides the people who consist of the company team. Each person brings his or her individual ideas. Whether it is Holly Johnston’s Contemporary Dance workshop that forces you to re-evaluate how you perceive dance and social behavior, or Shannon Hanly’s choreography that pushes you beyond your physical limits, you glean something new from these diverse perspectives.

"The Kingdom of Pop" choreographed by Shannon Hanly, "America's Got Bollywood", Spring Showcase 2013

“The Kingdom of Pop” choreographed by Shannon Hanly, “America’s Got Bollywood”, Spring Showcase 2013

From that moment where we, as part of the Mona Khan Company creative team, start brain-storming over endless cups of chai, to the end result where various artists re-interpret our original thoughts, something amazing happens, where the idea takes a life of its own. It transforms and flourishes. So from that initial germ of thought you have this piece of art, that has been shaped by so many creative minds.

Partner Yoga Workshop

Partner Yoga Workshop

The other aspect of collaboration that is truly wonderful is the fact that you can learn from one another, different ways of working and perceiving, of creating and problem-solving. Yes, there are conflicts of ideas, crazy schedules that refuse to match up and the stress of bringing together so many artists in one space. But in the end, it all makes sense! When we watch the show coming together, all we can say is “that’s why!”

This showcase the Mona Khan Company team is truly excited to work with guest choreographers Shannon Hanly & Jeanette Male, Partner Yoga teachers Vidya & Keoni, live musicians and new production artists to create magic on stage in “America’s Got Bollywood“, Fall Showcase 2013. Come experience the art of collaboration!

Bollywooditis: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Posted in Dance, Shows on June 3, 2013 by phiroozeh

photo(3)On Sunday night at ten o’clock, I leave the Chabot Center for the Performing Arts and people stare. Because my shoulders are bouncing, my head is nodding, and I’m walking in time to music that is running in a constant loop in my head: Sada Dil Vitu/Fevicol/Kukkud. At home and famished after my twelve-hour day, my arm lifts elegantly for the cereal, my feet glide to the fridge for milk, with which I pirouette back to the counter as though I’m unfurling from above in a silky blue harness because in my head, I am Ishika Seth. I get into bed, assuming that after twelve hours on my feet, I will crash. But behind closed lids, I still hear it, still see it: purple chunris flapping overhead – o ho – green ghagras doing a thumka – a ha – and gold- sequined shoulders doing bhangra- balle balle balle. Under the covers, I am still dancing. Bollywooditis. I contract it every spring and fall, and the symptoms go away after about three days. Which is when I begin the countdown till the next Mona Khan Company showcase.

They used to ask me, “Are you a company dancer?” I wish. “Student?” Nope. “Parent?” Sorry. “Then why do you volunteer?” Simple. Look at the company merchandise for the answer: Love Bollywood.

I love Bollywood. Not in an “OMG, did you see the new Selena Gomez Bollywood-inspired video” way, or “Did you see the Bollywood routine they did on Dancing with the Stars/SYTYCD” way, or even a “Look at this awesome henna tattoo I got at the county fair” way. I loved Bollywood back when it was embarrassing to be caught watching people run around trees and come out in a whole new outfit as though the trunk housed a hidden closet, back when people covered their ears at your music and wondered who was killing that poor woman because why else as she wailing in such a high-pitched voice? I loved Bollywood before it was cool.

So why do I love Bollywood? Because it reminds me of childhood, of sitting in Nani-Nana’s air-conditioned living room watching Mithun take on eight goondas with one mutthi, or Aamir kick down a table, light it on fire and marry Madhu at his makeshift mandap while her bug-eyed father looked on. Like any displaced Desi, I cling to fillums no matter how many steroids Salman takes or how huge the age gap between Shah Rukh and his heroines because they are as close to Nani-Nana’s living room as I’ll ever get.

My first Mona Khan Company show, they put me on merchandise, where I watched people storm the tables buying everything in sight, tees, tanks, water bottles, for themselves, their daughters, nieces, friends who were inside right now and would kill them if they didn’t get that show’s hot item before it sold out. And sell out it did. Every time, the bulk of merchandise sells out at tech, long before show day even nears. I’m not the only one who loves Bollywood.

My second show, I was backstage. My job was to lead the students coming offstage around to the front of the theater where someone else guided them back to their seats. This was one of the most gratifying roles I had because I got to see their faces, especially first time performers, as they came off the stage, still high on the adrenalin of being in the spotlight, their five minutes of stardom. They were giddy, out of breath, hugging each other, lunging for their instructor, who was equally excited, and as they scrambled to put on their shoes and get back to their seats so they didn’t miss their friend/son/daughter in the upcoming act, they all wished they could go back and do it again then and there.

Most shows I help seat students. I watch the little ones come in nervously, in ridiculously adorable outfits, the adults excitedly checking each other’s outfits and hair pieces and even the teens peek out behind their iPhones and glance nervously at the stage awaiting their turn.

This last show, I was so busy running up and down the aisles, leading the next class to the green room, I barely got to watch any of the show. But I knew what was going on if my back was to the stage, based on audience reactions. Cries of “Aaaawww,” meant it was the Baccha Party. Moist eyes meant the Jeena kids were performing. Cheers that brought the house down meant Jollywood was onstage. If the audience was completely still, eyes glued to the stage, it was a company act. If they were hardly breathing, it was Ishika and Amit moving as one.

At the end of the show, you get to see just how many people it takes to put each showcase together. You see the instructors, choreographers, costume designers, merchandise coordinators, website managers are working behind the scenes. You get goose bumps as the Holy Trinity come onstage: Chitra, Amrita and finally, Mona herself. You look at these women who give more of their time and energy than any of us will ever know and you silently thank God for their presence in your life, their efforts in keeping your Bollywood cravings satiated, keeping you feeling close to your roots.

Each show, they acknowledge the volunteers, who, when all lined up, take up the entire width of the stage. That many people willingly devoting their Sunday all in the name of Bollywood, all in the name of Mona Khan’s vision of Bollywood.

That many people who, together, love Bollywood.

Phiroozeh Romer is a writer, Bombay Jam instructor and a life-long devotee to Mona Khan Company. Check her out at phiroozeh.blogspot.com

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America’s Got Bollywood: Organizing the largest Bollywood Dance show in the Bay!

Posted in Dance, Shows on May 1, 2013 by Mona Khan Company
America's got Bollywood, Fall Showcase 2012

America’s got Bollywood, Fall Showcase 2012

Twice a year, it happens! America’s Got Bollywood! Inspiring and captivating! 1000 students ages 3 yrs. to adults, 100 Emerging Performers and professional dancers, special needs kids from Jeena, and the Jollywood seniors all come together to rock the stage!

One spectacular day but behind it lies months and months of preparation. Creating a show of that level and that scale requires tremendous planning and organization. The artistic team designing all the professional acts, selecting themes, concepts and songs, to reflect the same. Instructors choosing and conceptualizing the songs for their classes and the medleys being edited for each class. Hours and hours are invested in creating the perfect medley! Some of the professional acts actually have sound engineers in India creating the mixes.

The content is just one aspect. What would the showcase be without the costuming and production?

We actually made this mesh for Spring Showcase, 2011!

We actually made this mesh for Spring Showcase, 2011!

Planning for the production starts well in advance. Identifying and creating backdrops, designing and renting sets, and bridging the gap between our vision and it’s execution, is a Herculean task. From each ribbon that a student may be using to the largest set on stage, each aspect must be accounted for. The set up and strike has to happen within minutes so there is an entire team of people dedicated to make that happen.

Costuming is an entire world in itself.

Vibrant costuming! Mt. View Adults in Fall 2012 showcase.

Vibrant costuming! Mt. View Adults in Fall 2012 showcase.

People often wonder why we are so rigid about the costume measurement submission deadlines. The fact is that there are about a 1000 students whose costumes are ordered all the way from India! We have several vendors dealing with different sizes, designs and fabrics. The designing and sampling begins before the quarter even starts. And we have to account time for unexpected things like costumes getting stuck in customs as they contained too many sequins! Each costume piece is individualized so the volume of work is unimaginable! And then there are the professional act costumes which are another story altogether!

Our incredible volunteer team.

Our incredible volunteer team.

So far we were just exploring what people actually see on stage but there are so many other logistics that need to be ironed out. Volunteer meetings begin months in advance. The team of people one sees ushering the students and audiences have all been part of several meetings. The amount of effort they put in may not be as visible compared to the performers, but it is in no ways easier. In order to have a well-organized showcase, a good volunteer team is crucial and we are thankful to have a set of motivated people who continue to support us.

There are also other aspects like ticketing, booking the vendors, the merchandise, the program guide, the technical rehearsals and so much more which we haven’t really elaborated on. But you get the idea! All these elements come together to create a great experience!

"America's Got Bollywood" Spring Showcase 2013

“America’s Got Bollywood” Spring Showcase 2013

America’s Bollywood is truly special because we put our hearts and souls into it, trying to outdo ourselves each show and constantly trying to better the experience for the students and audiences.

May 19 is just round the corner and we hope to see you there! Tickets available here.

The Incredible Shaan Se Tour

Posted in Dance, Shows on September 5, 2011 by ishikaseth

Dancers Anisha Babbar, Shobana Shankar, Monika Ramaswamy & Ishika Seth (L-R) with Shaan

This was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular experiences for our company! Accompanying an artist like Shaan was a dream come true and the tour superseded every expectation that we had. From the first show in Vegas to the last show in L.A., it was just a whirlwind of energy, excitement and great entertainment! It was absolutely amazing to share the stage with so many talented musicians and singers — Shadab, Aishwarya and Shaan himself.

Accompanying Shaan in "Main Hoon Don"

It was fabulous to go to Vegas, after spending a week there last year for America’s Got Talent, this time to perform with one of the biggest singers in Bollywood. The show in Vegas, was confirmed last minute giving us 2 rehearsals and ‘only’ 8 songs to learn. So we rehearsed at the airport and then in the aisles on the flight, our music playing on a little portable speaker! Some people were annoyed, some highly amused and the flight attendants gave up on us after a while!

Mona Khan Company dancers with Shaan's incredible band "The Groove"

We arrived in Vegas at the beautiful Venetian hotel where we were staying and performing, only to learn that the medleys and sequences being sung were all different. The band members from Shaan’s band, The Groove, were kind enough to bring us up to speed quickly so we actually knew what was being sung on stage. But, we were warned that they may not sing all the verses, the songs would be part of medleys and a there may be lot of other variations!

Dancing to Deewangi in Munni costumes!

But what about the song order? That was also changing on the fly! So there we were all ready in our  “Munni” costumes when “Deewangi” started playing on stage! Then what, we had to go on stage to dance to “Deewangi” (which was at least 10 times faster that the original movie song!) in our “Munni” costume! But that’s show business, you just have to make it work. So we masked the internal shock we were all experiencing and jammed to the super-fast version of “Deewangi” in our “Munni” costumes!

The beautiful Chaand Sifarish

Then we were told that we had a 30-minute gap before “Chaand Sifarish.” So we were all chilling backstage (thankfully in the correct costume!) when we heard the opening notes for “Chaand Sifarish” well before the 30 minute break! We would have outrun people escaping from a raging fire or a tsunami! All you could see was a blur of yellow skirts, a flurry of peacock feather fans and somehow we made it on stage!

Creative Director Amrita Shastri emceeing the Vegas show

Besides the dancing, we were also requested to emcee the entire event! Thank goodness for Amrita Shastri, the Creative Director of the company, who was also helping us with all our costumes (just 8 full changes!) and makeup. On the spot, she became the emcee for the event. As she went over a quickly assembled script backstage in a perfect outfit that she had somehow thought of packing, it seemed like she had rehearsed it for weeks. But, right before she stepped on the stage to start the show, there was a small commotion and some guy backstage snatched her script and ran away with it! (This is not a joke!) Somehow she still managed to pull it off. All in all, Vegas was definitely a learning experience.

Mona Khan Company Team with Shadab Faridi

It was the starting point and from there we began to understand how different the next performances were going to be from anything else we had done. Shaan and his band excelled at understanding the crowd and really giving them what they wanted! So, the singers and band members could change the tempo, the lyrics, the song sequence even! Within their creative freedom we had to find a way to let the dance change and evolve as necessary and somehow stay synchronized too. Despite the craziness, people still liked us and we were asked to prepare an opening act for the rest of the shows!

Mona Khan Company dancers accompanying Aiswarya Majmudar

From Vegas we went back to the Bay, rehearsed some more, and then before we knew it, it was time for the Phoenix show. Phoenix was hot! Literally! We were all roasting in the over 100 degree weather. We just about had time to do a quick blocking on stage at the Mesa Arts Center and then began the process of getting dressed. We did an opening act to begin the show in Phoenix!

Creative Director Amrita Shastri rocking it out with Shaan

It was just amazing to watch Shaan’s natural charm and ease on stage and to hear some of our favorite songs, right from the wings! We were dancing to every song, whether we were on or off stage. At some point while were up to our usual madness, suddenly Shaan came towards the wings and pulled Amrita on stage for a rock and roll number. Half-embarrassed, half-excited, she danced with him.

In Phoenix, we also got a chance to interact with Shaan after the show, and realized that not only is he a fabulous artist but an amazing, down-to-earth person with such a positive outlook.

Mona Khan Company dancers and emerging performers in the opening act

From Phoenix we came back home to the Bay Area, for what turned out to be one of the highlights of the tour, both for us and Shaan and his crew. We of course, had the support of our students and fans which made the show so much more special. We were also able to add more dancers and make the opening act truly grand, involving our Emerging Performers as well as company dancers, about 75 performers! The show at the gorgeous San Jose Center for Performing Arts, began with our dancers setting the stage on fire…the energy of the band, the artists and the audiences was electrifying!

Given Shaan’s amazing ability, his genuine smile and generosity as a

Mona Khan joins Shaan on stage

performer, it was no surprise that the audience fell in love with him and  loved the show! It was a humbling experience when Shaan acknowledged the dancers and invited our Artistic Director Mona Khan to join him on stage. Shaan and Mona go back a long way to when Mona danced in Bombay; she herself has performed with Shaan numerous times! After the Bay Area show, Shaan and his band told us that it was a magical experience for them due to the undeniable energy in the audience and on stage.

It was with a sense of achievement that we set off for L.A. for the final show and the end of the Shaan Se tour. We arrived at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and by this time,

Mona Khan Company Bacha Emerging Performers with Shaan

the show just felt really comfortable, like it was part of us, though it was still as exciting of course! It was a smaller theater and an earlier show, a less motivated audience but some how Shaan had the entire house rocking! By this time we had developed a synergy with the entire crew so the feeling of the show was just different. We all came together as one unit. There was one point in the show when a percussionist Anupam Ghatak signaled the dancers to join him and play the drums on stage. We of course thought that he was kidding until he actually walked off stage! We were quite tempted to go but figured it was best if we just stick to dancing!

L-R: Mona Khan Company dancers Monika Ramaswamy, Ishika Seth, Anisha Babbar & Shobana Shankar with Aishwarya Majmudar

Each show was just so memorable and despite almost no sleep at night, once the music began we were just ready! Besides the honor of sharing the stage with these artists and hearing their positive feedback, it was also a time to build friendships and connect as artists. Our only regret was not having had another 10 shows together!

As we left L.A. and said our last goodbyes there were so many mixed feelings. All we hope is that we can work together again in the near future with Shaan and his crew. Shaan said that our dancing and involvement did wonders for his show and enhanced his presentation as a world-class artist…and there can be no greater compliment!

To hear Shaan talk about Mona Khan Company click here

To see more pictures of the Shaan Se Tour click here

Bringing Bollywood to Seattle

Posted in Shows on May 7, 2011 by ishikaseth

Hello 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!

Mona Khan Company dancers with belly dancer Ashley Lopez who joined us from Oregon

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.

Company Dancer Jayanth Chakravarty & Operations Director Chitra Selvaraj, setting up early morning

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.

Off the plane and into the technical rehearsal

Before we knew it, it was time for the performance.

Costume coordinator Heena Joshi in her element

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?”

Emcee Akhil Joondeph giving autographs after the show!

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.

Time to pack up! Dancers Deepak Sinha & Amit Patel

Exploring Seattle

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.

Eating enough for an army..,wait! we are an army!

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

Mona Khan company dancers with Costume Coordinator Heena Joshi, Operations Director Chitra Selvaraj & makeup artist Ruby Walia


“Best show EVER this weekend in Washington. Always honored to be featured with this incredible troupe…and what a fabulous audience too!!!” – Ashley Lopez

America’s Got Talent: Top 48 Live Show in L.A.

Posted in Shows on November 11, 2010 by ishikaseth

The Preparation

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.

Battle Scars!

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.”

Temporary risers for rehearsals

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)

With Future Funk

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.

Creative Director Amrita Shastri coordinates the wardrobe

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

Company dancers Monika Ramaswamy & Ishika Seth get their hairdo trial

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.

With Brian Friedman's creative team Chris Dupre & Tucker

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.

Late night rehearsal at the CBS studio

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

Manicures & Pedicures in Hollywood

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!

The live show interview

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.

Bringing Bollywood to Hollywood

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!

The applauding audience

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.

Backstage Euphoria

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.

Awaiting the results

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.

This is JUST the beginning…

To watch our Top 48 Live Show video click here

To see more pictures of our Top 48 Live Show experience click here