Redondo Beach, Calif. — Bollywood may have enthralled many corners of the world, but on one Saturday in March students of Nakul Dev Mahajan’s Indian American dance studio brought the world to the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center through Bollywood.
NDM Bollywood Dance Productions and Studios held its annual student recital, “Bollywood Travels,” March 28 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. “Bollywood Travels” was presented twice last weekend: a matinee at noon and an encore evening performance at 6 p.m. About 2,700 people attended both programs.
“This is where our entire student body participates,” Mahajan told India-West, pointing out 430 students and 20 members of his school’s dance troupe participating in “Bollywood Travels.”
The 450 performers entertained for more than two hours, fulfilling the recital’s tag line: “Experience the World … Bollywood Style.”
In two acts, students performed in 12 sketches representing 11 countries: India, the United States, Thailand, Kenya, Norway, France, Romania, United Kingdom, Spain, China and Morocco.
The storyline focused on a married couple — Rahul and Sheila — who seek to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a trip around the world. Rahul and Sheila visit NDM Travels Agency, where they meet “Passport Prakash.” The worldwide journey begins almost as soon as the couple meets the eccentric and lovable agent.
Passport introduced a new country to Rahul and Sheila before each act. The couple then deliberated each destination by taking in each choreographed dance routine.
The recital’s opening number was followed by Passport’s first suggestion: the United States. Two teams danced to popular Bollywood tunes such as “Pump It Up” from “Chance Pe Dance” and patriotic American music fused with classical Indian beats.
Next on the itinerary was Thailand, which featured exotic scenery and Indo-Asian costumes; and Kenya, where students wore safari hats in one piece and danced to A.R. Rahman’s “Beat of Passion” in another. The Kenya segment also featured “Oye Oye,” which was on the “Tridev” soundtrack and sampled Gloria Estefan’s “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.”
From the land of Kenya, NDM’s students moved north to Norway. This segment was loosely based upon the popular “Frozen” song, “Let It Go.”
Dancers remained in Europe when the stage shifted to Spain, where popular Latin music and dance infused with modern Bollywood elements. Highlighting the Spain segment was “Maria Maria” from “Partner.” Of course, there was a little touch of salsa dancing before the program shifted to the world’s most populous country.
China was the climactic destination in Act 1, which was highlighted by “Dance Like a Chammiya” from “Happy New Year” and a performance by NDM’s professional dance troupe. Act 1 ended with the story of Adam and Eve and the fateful encounter with temptation.
Act 2 opened in Romania, which was facetiously spun as “Transylvania.” Accordingly, a Bollywood-style vampire number welcomed the audience to the second half of the recital.
The recital made a short travel to its next few destinations: France, Morocco, and then United Kingdom.
Students donned Parisian-inspired costumes and danced in front of an image of the Eiffel Tower during the France segment. A little further south in Morocco, there was a solo performance, some belly dancing, and an Arabic-inspired number that included a rendition of “Dhoom Machale.”
Back in Europe, the United Kingdom segment opened with an ode to “Lagaan” before featuring a royalty-themed dance performance.
“Bollywood Travels” finished in India, where an emphasis was placed on India’s diversity and unique cultures coming together as a whole. The India segment featured traditional classical dance items and popular songs such as “I Love My India” and “Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana Sanam.” The recital concluded with a finale number with NDM’s Dance Troupe and students.
Mahajan, who portrayed Passport Prakash on stage, told India-West that he and his students tried to push the envelope and raise the production value of this year’s recital.
“We definitely had a different theme,” he said, adding the story of “Bollywood Travels” has been in development since last summer.
Joining Mahajan on stage as Rahul and Sheila were Varun Gurunath and Rita Sehmi, respectively. Gurunath, who specializes in blending Bollywood, Tollywood and Hip Hop dance into one artform, developed the recital’s storyline. His counterpart, Sehmi, is a trained actor and dancer.
NDM’s dance studio was established in 2003 and advertises itself as the first Bollywood dance studio and company in the United States. Mahajan is also an in-demand choreographer in Hollywood with many credits, including the reality contest “So You Think You Can Dance.”