SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — Performing a hip-hop routine to a Bollywood remix of a Michael Jackson song, 15-year-old Indian American student Shawn Mathews beat out 15 competitors to win Zee TV’s “Dance India Dance North America 2015.”
“He did a lot of hip-hop based movement with a Bollywood masala,” “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan, who was one of the judges at the finale, told India-West. “There were other contestants that were doing the same thing, but he was definitely a cut above the rest.”
The 10th grader from Harrisburg, Pa., has been dancing since the age of 10, is a student at the Arya Dance Academy and has more than 800 subscribers on his YouTube channel.
“There was just something dynamic about him,” Mahajan said. “Every move that he made, he was full of light and very infectious. You just wanted to keep on watching him.”
Roshni Shetty, also an Arya Dance Academy student, and Rohit Gijare, both New Jersey residents, were the first and second runner-ups, respectively.
Mahajan, who also runs the NDM Dance Studios in Los Angeles, said Shetty stood out among all the female contestants and was definitely the top female performer in the finale.
He said that these dance reality shows are a great platform for young dancers, but “Dance India Dance” is especially important because it highlights the spread of this art form across geographic and national boundaries.
Mahajan said being able to judge the contest was particularly gratifying for him, both from the perspective of receiving acknowledgement as an American Bollywood choreographer and also as an individual who had a similar journey to the Indian American contestants.
Out of approximately 20,000 audition videos from North Americans, 20 contestants were selected to participate in the mega audition, judged by acclaimed Bollywood choreographers Geeta Kapur, Mudassar Khan and Punit J. Pathak of “ABCD” and “ABCD 2” fame.
Those who advanced to the top 10 underwent rigorous choreography training from former “DID” contestants Juhi Arora, Neerav Bavlecha and last year’s winner Rajat Batta.
Dancers ranged from 15 to 30 and performed various dance styles, including Kathak, Bharata Natyam, hip-hop, contemporary, folk and more.