Glendale, California – In the shadows of Hollywood, just minutes from the studios of Burbank and the bright lights of Los Angeles, the streets of downtown Glendale were filled with star-gazers, dream-chasers and happy feet. The night was March 7th. With the sun steadily sinking, those lucky few who had a seat inside the Alex Theater hoped to see a few stars twinkling.
Those potential stars spawned from one of ten colleges performing in the Seventh Annual “Jhoomti Shaam,” a three-hour dance competition featuring the most spectacular in Hindi film and Indian fusion dance this side of the Pacific. With $3,000 in prize money up for grabs, each college team arrived here in Glendale with an arsenal of dance moves and a series of Bollywood’s greatest rhythmic beats to knock the socks off the judges and stay true to the show’s theme: “Where Stars Are Born.” Perhaps a few Bollywood agents need to scout for its next superstar at one of the three University of California schools located in Berkeley, Irvine and San Diego, who claimed first, second and third place, respectively.
Hosted by Nashaa, UCLA’s official Hindi Film Dance Team, “Jhoomti Shaam” featured nine schools competing for three cash prizes, an opening performance by students of NDM Dance Studio, a dance performance by the host school, and a grand finale put on by UCLA’s Indian a cappella group. Among the nine competing schools, seven were from California, including USC, UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, UC-Riverside, UC-Davis, UC-Berkeley and Stanford. The other two schools were Boston University and Saint Louis University.
With six Hindi song routines and three fusion performances, a crowd of nearly 1,300 adoring fans were treated to more than just orgasmic dance moves to the tune of heart-thumping beats. Each dance team centered its number on a Bollywood-style plot or fusion-based theme. With a preview of each team’s story presented on an overhead projector just prior to its performance, anywhere from 10 to 20 dancers danced out the plot’s exhilarating climax and thrilling conclusion.
For example, Boston University’s “Chankaar” themed its fusion piece around the interplay of the four elements of fire, water, wind and earth. Saint Louis University’s “Raaga” plotted a dance routine based on the animated classic Monsters, Inc., except a little girl named Kimi was surrounded by several “monsters of dance.” All the while, UC-Riverside’s “Rang de Riverside” featured an all-female performance, telling the tale of several Indian village women who trek to Bollywood searching for dancing success.
Other schools romanticized about love triangles all too common in Bollywood’s Hindi-language films. Southern Cal’s “Anjaane” featured a cool, suave gangster pursuing the “perfect” Indian girl, while UC-Davis’s “Toofan” focused on an Indian beauty queen who fell in love with an equally handsome Prince Charming who gave her no attention.
Stanford’s “Dil Se” revisited the storybook love tale as told by the popular animated film Shrek and featured an African-American male as its leading smitten Prince Charming who fell in love with a beautiful yet cursed princess.
While UCLA was not eligible to claim any of the prize money due to its role as the host school, its “Nashaa” dance team performed an intriguing dance with a group of male sailors searching for love on the high seas and finding it on an island full of beautiful women -– a positively innocent spin on the Sirens of Greek mythology.
Not taking away from the skill and energy of these seven schools, three were chosen as the best of the talented lot -– UC-San Diego, UC-Irvine and UC-Berkeley.
Claiming third place and a $500 prize was UC-San Diego, whose team “KYA” stood out with a dance story surrounding a handsome Rico Suave who had a different girl every day of the month but stumbled upon that one girl who was not lured in by his charm.
Located a few miles up Interstate 5 is UC-Irvine’s “Zamana,” which claimed second place and $1,000 in prize money. An electrifying performance which followed the grand opening number by students of NDM Dance Studio, “Zamana” set the tone early and defined the bar of success for the remaining eight schools that performed in the team’s wake. Revolving around a Bollywood scout searching for the next great starlet, “Zamana” wowed the audience with electric stage designs and highly skilled dance moves whose degree of difficulty was bested only by the team who claimed first prize.
That team was “Ishaara,” who represented UC-Berkeley. In claiming first place and $1,500, the Northern California-based dance team added a unique twist on the proverbial Bollywood love triangle, with its leading male finding his “ideal” bride in the motherland on an Indian matrimonial website, only to find his new found love interest was anything but ideal -– all while his best friend, who is a white female, was secretly in love with him. A performance that maintained a high level of intensity with an intriguing plot and stellar dances by every single member on the stage, the crowd erupted with congratulatory excitement for an “Ishaara” team that stood out as the best of the West.
The dance competition was scored by five judges, including founder of the blue13 Dance Company Achinta S. McDaniel and Superstars of Dance Silver medalist Amrapali Ambegaokar. Also judging were Poonam Desai and Rishi Gupta, both co-founders of Nashaa and Jhoomti Shaam, and Shirish Dayal, who recently judged on
Superstars of Dance. For more information about “Jhoomti Shaam” and UCLA’s Hindi Film Dance Team, please visit www.jhoomtishaam.com.
Photos by Parimal Rohit