(As published in India Currents)
“The audience won’t get a chance to settle back from the edge of their seats,” says Nakul Dev Mahajan, founder and chief choreographer of NDM Bollywood Dance Productions Inc., of his upcoming show, “Ek, Do, Teen.” The two-hour event from the Artesia-based dance studio will feature Bollywood dance by approximately 80 performers from the company. Furthermore, each dance team will have learned their routine in just four hours…!
In fact, that crash-course learning style is exactly Mahajan’s premise for “Ek, Do, Teen.” NDM students were given a chance to sign up for a solo (ek), duet (do) or trio (teen), and then assigned to NDM’s 20 choreographers with differing backgrounds including Bollywood, classical Indian, and hip hop. Each such choreographer-student team was then asked to choose their dance number; resulting in 54 numbers of about 2 minutes each. Every team has an official learning session of just 4 hours.
Mahajan has become known in the American mainstream as the “Bollywood choreographer” via Fox’s popular “So You Think You Can Dance,” and attributes the inspiration of his upcoming production to the show.
Given that Bollywood is in itself a fusion of several musical and dance influences with a strong narrative component, “Ek, Do, Teen” promises to enthrall: The variety of music and dance-scapes that will be traversed is mind boggling. Mahajan will be choreographing eight numbers, including the catchy Arabic-Hindi “Nari Nari” as a duet, and “Thoda Sa Pagla (Aur Pyar Ho Gaya)” as a solo.
The show will get every member of the audience cruising down memory lane or hurriedly catching up with the current grooves. The lineup includes solos such as the evergreen Hindustani number “Salaam-E-Ishq (Umrao Jaan),” and “Say Na Say Na (BluffMaster);” folksy duets such as “Rangeelo Maro Dholna (Shubha Mudgal album Pyar Ke Geet);” and classic Bollywood trios such as “Amar Akbar Anthony.”
Interestingly, Sagar Patel, winner of the Sony Entertainment-sponsored international dance contest Boogie Woogie, is a current enrollee at NDM, and will be performing to the hip hop number “Love Mera Hit Hit (Billu Barber).”
Mahajan’s adherence to traditional dance regimens and exploration of modern dance semantics has attracted talent and wannabe stars of all ages—the current batch of 300 students includes a handful that are over 50. The tagline for the company reads Live, Love, Dance; and Mahajan takes pride in the family-friendly ethos of both his productions and his company.
Starting as a social dancer himself at weddings and family parties, he drew courage from every compliment he received to finally apply for a spot in the Ziba Beauty dance contest, and on to forming a group.
“Back in the early ’80s, dancing was especially taboo for boys, and I had to practice in secret,” says Mahajan. He self-taught and perfected his moves by watching videos of Amitabh Bachchan and Michael Jackson.
Dancing competitively and knowing he could lead a group was what emboldened Mahajan to announce to his parents that he wanted to pursue dance as a profession. Their initial incredulity gave in to conditional support—Mahajan would have to complete his graduation. This he did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today Mahajan is considered a Bollywood ambassador, taking Bollywood dancing to diverse audiences throughout the U.S. and beyond. His work has been featured in “ABC Nightline,” Time magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. His major Hollywood choreography credits include MTV, “Character Fantasy,” “Passions,” “Superstars of Dance,” and “The Office.”
The NDM dance company opened doors in 2003 and currently offers classes in four Southern California locations.
“Ek Do Teen” is a special presentation, an experiment to challenge talent with the demands of discipline and practice. True to the ensemble spirit of Bollywood dancing, the opening piece will have Nakul and over 40 dancers performing to … “Ek Do Teen” from the movie Tezaab—no points for guessing this one!
Saturday, Nov. 14, 2 p.m. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach. $30, $40, $50. (562) 402-7761.www.ndmdance.com.