The holidays may be over, but there is no need to feel down or unlucky. Perhaps you are already singing the blues because you failed to keep one or more of your resolutions during the first 8 days of 2009. Do not despair. Just wait a few weeks, and a stunningly beautiful and incredibly diverse dance troupe will surely add some flavor to your new year in the same way Santa added an exclamation to the end of each of your first few years on Earth.
Just in case you are curious, that flavor roots from India, and there are certainly greater blends of colors than just red and white. There is a hint of Bollywood and a dash of classical dance thrown into the mix.
Fresh off an electrifying performance at the 49th Annual Holiday Arts Celebration on December 24th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, blue13 is starting to find its place as one of the most unique dance troupes to grace a stage.
Officially known as the blue13 Dance Company, the group started as a novel concept in 1999. Its founder and executive director, Achinta S. McDaniel, pioneered a contemporary style of Bollywood-Tech and Neo-Kathak into a dance troupe who will leave you spellbound with an awe-inspiring performance.
Many families experienced the liveliness of blue13’s style firsthand on Christmas Eve, when the dance troupe staged a ten-minute performance, telling a classic Indian tale of a prince and princess caught in a battle between good and evil through a variety of eclectic dance moves.
“We essentially do contemporary dance with inspiration from Bollywood and other forms of popular and classical dance,” McDaniel breathlessly told Buzzine, moments after she performed at Dorothy Chandler. “My [personal] roots are Indian, but my heart is very contemporary.”
An inspiration of her cultural roots, McDaniel founded the dance troupe shortly after graduating from NYU. Heading west to Hollywood in 2001, she is considered by people on both coasts as an expert on Indian dance styles.
In fact, she can probably be credited for establishing an entirely new dance style, adding to a culture already rich with diverse techniques.
One of those new styles is labeled “Neo-Kathak,” which is a contemporary form of one of India’s oldest and most complicated dance styles. Her new style combines the original multi-beat rhythms with a splash of western electronica and pop. Add a little Bollywood and Bhangra into the mix, and you ultimately end up with something that is only taught by McDaniel herself at her dance school, rightfully called The Blue School.
There, she teaches her signature dance moves, dubbed Bollywood.Bhangra.Beats, which is a bit of a fusion of western music with modern music from Hindi soundtracks and traditional Punjabi music.
“We just want to explore a bunch of different styles,” McDaniel excitedly told Buzzine. “We borrow from Bollywood dance theater, and we want to tell a story. But it’s not just a cultural show or just a modern show. It’s more like a ballet — one continuous story.”
Of course, they incorporate other styles into their dance movements, including jazz, tap, hip-hop and modern ballet.
To maintain the diversity of dance movements, the dancers of blue13 hail from varying backgrounds and cultures. This writer observed at least five different ethnicities during the Christmas Eve performance.
The troupe itself has ten core dancers, not all of whom are Indian. When major productions take place, such as the troupe’s next one in February, McDaniel will recruit as many as twenty more dancers in order to stage an exhilarating performance.
“We do collaborate a lot,” McDaniel said, “and we always do original work. No matter who we bring in, we never borrow from other people’s work.”
Consistent with that originality, it is blue13’s primary goal “to expand and explore new repertoire, encompassing contemporary dance with an Eastern sensibility, as well as to collaborate and create with multi-genre, multi-ethnic performing artists all over the world, and to present work to more diverse and new audiences.”
That goal is disseminated to the public via its vast production schedule or through the various dance classes taught at The Blue School year-round.
Yet, to truly experience blue13’s balance of “contemporary dance with Eastern sensibility,” you will have to wait until its next production, about five weeks away.
Stay tuned with Buzzine to find out more about blue13. If you have an urge for more right now, then visit the troupe’s website.
You will definitely find enough information there to keep you afloat until blue13’s next performance. If, for some reason, you are unable to attend, be sure to check back with Buzzine in mid-February — we will take you inside the production and make you believe you had a seat up close!