Bollywood

Bollywood

Dancers in “Incredible Bollywood” rehearse for their upcoming dance show on Saturday, June 10. From left are Stefanie Argus, of Providence, Maritza Gomez, of Providence, Joanna Pomykala, of Warwick, and Noel Moreau, of Smithfield. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)
Local performers showcase Indian dance this weekend

WEST WARWICK – Years after they moved to the United States from India, Rupa Datta, of West Warwick, and Rutuja Patil, of Providence, will watch as their dream to create a Bollywood dance show for Rhode Islanders comes to life this weekend.

The “Incredible Bollywood” dance show will take place on Saturday, June 10, in the auditorium at West Warwick High School, 1 Webster Knight Drive, in West Warwick, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 4 p.m.

Indian dance is “so, so energetic … so magical,” said Datta, who grew up in India, is trained in Indian classical and folk dances and has been dancing since she was a child.

A certified Masala Bhangra Ambassador, Datta moved to the States 11 years ago, but she didn’t dance for the first five or six years. When she started taking Zumba classes, she realized how much she missed dancing – specifically Bollywood dancing.

But “there were no events where you could dance Bollywood (in Rhode Island),” she told The Valley Breeze.

That was about to change.

Two years ago, when Datta met Patil, who previously worked as an actor and model in India and moved to Providence five years ago, they realized they had the same goal: to “create awareness about Indian dance, art, and culture in the community of Rhode Island and beyond.”

That’s the mission of their business, Dance BFF (Dance Bollywood Fusion and Fitness), which is producing Saturday’s dance show. Opened in June 2016, Dance BFF offers classes for children and adults in Bollywood and other Indian dance forms.

While their dancing has been showcased at events, such as PVDFest and the R.I. Heritage Day Festival, the women wanted to take their plan one step further and produce an exclusively Bollywood event, Datta said.

The women will donate part of the proceeds from ticket sales to Sojourner House, a Providence-based nonprofit focused on ending domestic and sexual violence, because, as Datta told The Breeze, she and Patil wanted to work with an organization that’s focused on empowering women.

Another local partner, Godavari Rhode Island, located at 356 Mendon Road in Cumberland, will sell South Indian food at the show.

Featuring 85 dancers from all across Rhode Island, the two-hour performance will include 16 choreographed Bollywood dances. Each dance will range from three to six minutes and might last for one song or a whole medley of tunes. Most of the show is really “high energy,” Datta said.

There are a couple of solo pieces and duets, but most dances will include a group of four to 12 dancers. In addition to Datta and Patil, who was crowned Mrs. India Rhode Island in 2016, eight other choreographers have worked to create the final show.

Following the 16 dances will be one last piece – “loosely choreographed” – featuring all 85 dancers.

The term Bollywood refers not to a style of dance but to India’s film industry, Datta said, so the show will pay tribute to Bollywood throughout the years: starting with the black-and-white era, up to contemporary films.

In the first Bollywood films, dances incorporated classical Indian styles such as Kathak and Bharatanatyam with various Indian folk styles such as Bhangra, Garba and more.

Modern Bollywood films combine these classical and folk Indian dances with Western styles such as Latin, hip hop, disco, and jazz.

“It’s all fusion,” Datta said. “Bollywood is the biggest fusion of dance you will ever see.”

Another key feature of Bollywood dances: groups of dancers performing in sync to the music.

“Bollywood is about the whole body,” Datta said. “What counts most is (that the dancers’) hands are moving together, as if they’re breathing together. That sync is really, really important.”

Bright, colorful costumes are also important in Bollywood dance and typically change with each piece. Some costumes are being shipped to Rhode Island from India just for the show, Datta said.

Datta’s favorite part about Bollywood dancing? The “dancerhood.”

“There are so many people who did not know each other, but now they are friends,” she said. “I did not know so many of these people, but now … they are my dance family.”

Among the 85 dancers are children and adults from all backgrounds and ethnicities, making for a diverse cast. Some have experience with Bollywood dancing, and others are new to the style.

When they held auditions in February, Datta and Patil were looking for people with some dance experience, but not necessarily Bollywood or Indian dance styles.

They weren’t sure how many people would show up for their auditions.

“The response was really overwhelming,” Datta said. “I was touched.”

About half the dancers are Indian, Datta said. “So many of our dancers are from different parts of the world,” she added.

There are plenty of dancers from northern Rhode Island, including Keri Smith, of Scituate.

A Zumba instructor, Smith told The Breeze that she met Datta through Zumba. When Datta asked her if she wanted to be part of the show, she said yes.

“I’m doing it for fun,” said Smith, adding that she’s a little out of her comfort zone because this is her first public dance performance.

Learning some Bhangra moves in Zumba has helped her prepare, she said. “It helps to have a background to know what some of the different moves (are).”

The Bollywood show is a family affair for some.

Smithfield residents Monica Bhagat, her husband Himanshu Bhagat and their son Vedant Bhagat, a student at Smithfield High School, have been preparing for the show together.

Monica Bhagat, who is performing in one piece, told The Breeze that she hasn’t danced since she was in school but was very impressed with Datta and Patil’s idea, so she jumped on board.

“I love dancing,” she said. “It relaxes me. It reminds me of school days.”

Her son, who used to take dance lessons from Datta, and her husband will dance together in two pieces, said Bhagat, who added that she might be most excited to wear and take pictures in the costumes, some of which are coming from India.

Creating and organizing the show has been stressful at times, but Datta said, “With all the support and love from all across the state, from different organizations, people and fans of Bollywood, Rutuja and I are actually pretty charged up.”

They would love to make the Bollywood dance show an annual event, she said.

Tickets are $25 each or $135 for a group of 10. Children age 5 years and younger are admitted free. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.dancebff.com .

Noel Moreau, of Smithfield, rehearses for “Incredible Bollywood.”
Creator of “Incredible Bollywood” Rupa Datta, dances with Rich Dupere, of North Providence.