In Indian Elements at the Seattle India Dance Festival
I recently had the best time of my life performing for the audience in America. I was invited to train and perform at the Seattle India Dance Festival called Elements. The event, the most awaited event of the West Coast, is organised by Prashanthi Chitre Institute of Performing Arts (PCIPA). It has been a landmark event for years and this was their 10th year so celebrated in a bigger and a larger manner. Hundreds of enthusiastic dancers came from all over the United States, be it Georgia, San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles were there. I was the special guest with my assistants, Supriya Shah and Mansi Desai, to teach and perform my section for the grand event.
It all began with my dear friend Ruchit Solanki calling me November last year and booking my dates for the most-awaited show in Seattle. Ruchit introduced me to the talented and graceful Prashanthi Chitre, director and producer of Seattle India Dance Festival. Prashanthi told me about the theme Elements where she was keen to being out the two sides of the life, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Life, as we know, is like a coin and has two sides and the two sides are unavoidable but the balance that we as people create is most important.
Her details and thought behind the show intrigued me as it was challenging. She wanted the theme to be expressed in Bollywood dance fashion. The show was planned for two hours and in three sections. The first section was where she was going to train and teach people. Segment two was for me to plan the way I liked and the last section was a fun-filled one where she was keen on Bollywood dances down the ages.
I reached Seattle with my assistants three weeks before the show to prepare and set choreographies. I met Prashanthi’s dynamic and enthusiastic team who were helping in organising the festival. I must say the dedication and love for dance was amazing to see. Everyone there were not just dancers. They all had day jobs and evenings were reserved for dance. A country like the US where there is no house help for anything and one has to do every work on own, from cooking to washing to polishing to cleaning, I thought how difficult life can be. But each and every person worked over 10 hours a day and danced for four-five hours thereafter. Then run home do household chores and get to office again the next day. The love for the art simply blew my mind away. My respect such wonderful people who do all they can to dance and perform.
Prashanthi helped us set our costumes, lights and props with help of her supportive husband Sudarshan who heads Amazon in Seattle. The professionalism that Sudarshan had in dealing with sound light and stage shocked me. It was like I was working with an event management professional and not a software person. I wish all dance-lovers get spouses like Sudarshan.
As shared earlier, the show had three segments. It began with Prashanthi’s Ying and Yang presented through Indian classical forms Kuchipudi blended with modern dancing and Indian folk dances. Her section was mesmerising with men showing the masculinity of Ying and women being introduced as Yang, their problems and fights to come together as a body depicted wonderfully through fusion dance and finally how the balance takes place between the two forces through Indian folk dance.
My section was next. It was a dance-drama of famous legendary Greek story of Why Roses Are Red shown through love vs evil where I played the character of God of Evil and how evil vice-like hunting destroyed the beautiful love life of Goddess of Love and Beauty, Venus and her Love God of Desire, Adonis. The story had me dancing and acting with live dialogs and all fabulous dancers introducing the characters and the story through Bollywood dance and music. The props of moon, stars, curtains set the romantic mood of love and romance and on the other, dark green lights and blacks masks and boas made me look evil and a person to be hated.
After the quick break, there was introduction of the charities for whom both the shows were being organised for. Cry America, Sankara Eye Foundation and Seattle Light House for the Blind were the three charities for whom PCIPA raise funds this year. Two house full shows made the charity collect loads of money for their cause and they were thankful to Prashanthi for helping them raise funds year after year.
Post the introduction of the charities was the fun part of the show — team of Bollywood legends down the ages. Be it Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Vyajathimala Bali, Meena Kumari, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Sri Devi, Madhuri Dixit, Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Shah Rukh Khan, Amir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, you name it and all were on stage dancing away and people singing along in the audience. The golden era was the most applauded one with songs like Hoto Pe Aaisi Baat, Apni Toh Jaise Taise and Jai jai Shiv Shankar had crowd get up and dance on their seats.
The best part of the evening was the finale dance of Dhoom — Dhoom Machale which had all the dancers participating in the show join Prashanthi and me on stage. The full stage of dancers and dance lovers and blast of confetti had the crowd get up and give PCIPA a standing ovation for organising yet another grand Seattle India Dance Festival.
Each dancer who performed at the festival contributed a lot from their side, be it looking to wear the same nail paint and lip colour to making sure all boys had similar hairdos and similar looks. It looked like a true show of all the India people wanting to show the people of Seattle the colour of India and not just a show by PCIPA. There was involvement and attachment. Post the show, we all had tears in our eyes while bidding goodbye to each other. Such is the love and warmth of Indians living abroad. Some dancers even forced us to extend our trip and stay at their place. They even bribed us that they will take us to see the famous Mount Ranier if we would accept their offer. It was so touching and memorable for us all.
When I travel to countries like these and see the love of people for Indian music and dance, it makes me love my dance profession even more. I would want to thank PCIPA and Prashanthi Chitre for organising such a stunning show this year. My uncle, aunt and my cousin, Sonya who drove down especially from Vancouver for this show could not stop taking about how the audience were mesmerised by each segment. It was like having our spy sitting in the audience to give us a feed back of our acts.
I hope and pray that shows like these become even more popular all over the world. So that Indian dance and music can rule the world soon, festivals like these and institutes like PCIPA and talented dancers like Prashanthi Chitra are the key to the success of Indian films and dances reaching global audience and markets. I hope there soon will a India festival in every city of the world so that the world can see what wonderful moves and exciting music we have from India.