Choreographed Bollywood dance moves are such the rave right now, just about everyone in Hollywood is searching for ways to catch the fast-moving train. Whether it be Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, even Disney, the biggest names in the Western world seem to be mesmerized and enthralled by the working lifestyles regularly enjoyed by the likes of Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Sure, many of Bollywood’s biggest names are already in the know and have been for nearly 50 years, yet the gamut of Hollywood types ranging from A-listers to wannabe posers have caught the Bollywood bug, and acclaimed dance choreographer Yogen Bhagat is making it easy for everyone to get their respective fill.
The artistic director of Bollywood Step Dance, Yogen brought his Bollywood talents across the seas to Los Angeles, where he is now teaching and sharing with others the very dance techniques he imparted upon Shah Rukh or Hrithik. Such a crossover experience has helped Yogen do something no other Indian-themed dance crew has ever done--perform a live dance extravaganza at a Disney park.
In breaking the mold with a 30-minute dance troupe performance as part of California Adventure’s “Glowfest,” Yogen shared with Buzzine his most recent experience at the ancillary park to the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
“We did a show at Disney, and they wanted all types of Indian dances involved. What I tried to do was to make it fun and more interactive, and people loved it,” Yogen said of the three-month dance event phenomenon at Disney’s California Adventure. “We were initially just called in for three weeks to test things out and see how Bollywood would work.”
Considered one of the first-ever live ethnic dance performances at a local Disney theme park, Yogen and his Bollywood Step Dance crew were one of two groups to electrify audiences at California Adventure’s Sunshine Plaza during the nightly one-hour show. With a team of 16 total dancers sporting costumes made in India, Bollywood Step Dance featured an eight-person crew on-stage on any given night. The reception and feedback was overwhelmingly positive, allowing Yogen’s invitation to transform from a mild three-week run into a major three-month excursion.
Of course, working with A-list Bollywood celebrities and landing a three-month gig at Disney was no fluke. Yogen spend an insane amount of time honing his craft. And what, exactly, does it take to become as talented a choreographer as Yogen has become? The visionary spirit of Bollywood Step Dance readily chimed in.
“The thing about Bollywood dance is it’s not one style. We have so many states in India, and they all have different styles of dance. You need to actually learn these different styles to perform on stage and to know more. For example, there is bhangra, garba, Rajasthani folk dance, Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, and Kathak,” Yogen pointed out. “Life is too short to master all of these styles, but you have to know all of these styles in order to be a Bollywood choreographer. It‘s a compilation of many different styles.”
Yogen did what he could as a child to learn as much as he could about India’s diverse lot of dance forms and, combined with a growing passion and desire to be blessed with a lifetime of happy feet, it was only a matter of time before the young kid would grow into a masterful choreographer.
It also helped that Yogen tried his hand at break-dancing and emulating Michael Jackson, allowing him to infuse the Western element in his Bollywood routines that have helped the dance form become the biggest rave in Hollywood.
Of course, it is not enough for Yogen to just be the head of some dance troupe who performs at a Disney theme park or alongside A.R. Rahman on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. As a student and disciple of Bollywood and Indian dance since he was a young child, Yogen hopes he can help the Western world embrace Bollywood as more than just a fad but instead as an essential piece of the artistic lifestyle.
“My goal right now is to pitch Bollywood in the right manner, not just as a traditional Indian dance that can be singled out,” he humbly told Buzzine. “It’s a main form of dance that will soon be found everywhere.”
Soon enough, Yogen, too, will be found everywhere, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for one of the most electrifying Bollywood dancers of his generation.