salsa fame

The Indian ‘Bad Salsa’ dance duo. (IANS/free photo)

NEW DELHI – She is 15, and comes from a village with no electricity. He is 20, and hails from a lower middle-class family with bare access to daily resources. Together, they are the salsa dance duo Bad Salsa, and are winning global fans after impressing judges on the international reality show, "America's Got Talent.”

The Indian duo of Sonali Majumdar and Sumanth Maroju aspire to be international stars and win laurels and accolades for India with their salsa groove. Their tryst with fame started when they won "India's Got Talent" season four in 2012. Sonali also participated in "Britain's Got Talent: The Champions.”

"I come from a distant village near the Bangladesh border where there was no electricity. My father is a farmer who used to earn approximately Rs 80 per day and had a tough time raising the family. After 'India's Got Talent', the village came into limelight and eventually electricity supply was made available. Now we own some land, and have built a house for our family," Sonali told IANS, looking back at the challenges in her dance journey.

Sumanth's family broke many shackles to help him realize his dream.

"In my lower middle-class family, dancing was never considered a profession. My family broke barriers and stereotypes to keep my dreams going. My father is a railway employee with bare access to daily resources but has always supported our family in every way possible. We now reside in a flat in Bhubaneswar and our standard of living has increased," Sumanth said.

Looking back at the start of the duo, Sumanth shared: "Our sir Bivash Chowdhury paired us in 2012 to participate in 'India's Got Talent'. His decision forever changed our lives."

"We just focused on working hard with a positive intention of doing great work and followed our sir's instructions. Taking part in such a renowned show was always a distinct dream but Bivash sir made it possible for us. He has shaped us into who we are today. While rehearsing our only aim is to keep getting better so we can constantly provide electrifying performances," he said.

"From 'India's Got Talent' to 'America's Got Talent', we faced many ups and downs, but we never let it come in our way. Our sir always believed in us. We continue to stay with him as he motivates us to perform to our best. Our journey is inspired by passion and dreams. We want to explore the world and spread our art to every corner of the world. Whatever the stakes, we will always give our best and continue to work hard to live our dreams and support our families," he added.

Earlier this year, the duo set the stage afire on "America's Got Talent", with their electrifying moves on the Bollywood number "Dhating naach.” They received a standing ovation from judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara. They have cleared the first round of auditions and are awaiting the second round of the show, which airs in India on Colors Infinity and streams on Voot Select.

"The judges were always kind and sweet to us right from the beginning. When our audition began, they were excited for us to perform and we could feel that. Their response will always be one of the greatest moments of our lives. Simon sir said that because of people like us they had a show, it meant everything to us. We were overwhelmed by the positive response by all the judges," Sumanth said.

Sonali added: "After our performance, Simon sir said, ‘without people like you we have no show'. That truly meant everything to us. We will forever remember his words."

Reflecting upon the idea of using a Bollywood number for their performance, Sumanth said: "We are representing India on the greatest stage of all. Our idea behind choosing an Indian song was to add a bit of the flavor of our country to our performance so that the audiences could connect with us and know where we are from."

They now wish to perform on every possible stage across the world, "and represent India by showcasing salsa in a never seen before avatar", Sumanth said. 

He added: "It is our aspiration to be international dancing stars and to inspire people to take up their passion of pursuing dance. We come from a background where situations were not easy to overcome. We did not have the resources and exposure to reach this far, yet we broke barriers and never gave up." 

Sonali feels "there are a lot of people who do not have the right kind of exposure to showcase their talent", and they want to reach out to them. 

"Bivash sir owns a gurukul where students from different parts of India arrive, stay, and learn the art of dance. Out here, we wish to assemble those talented people who need exposure and train them to their best, so they too have a chance to pursue their dreams," she said.

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