In three years' time, Bollywood Dance Scene has gone from being a surprise smash to being nationally notable. Their 2014 Fringe debut, Hi! Hello! Namaste?, was that year's highest-selling show. Last year's entry, Spicy Masala Chai, became not only the highest-selling show in Minnesota Fringe Festival history but, festival administrators believe, likely the highest-selling show in the history of American Fringe festivals.
You have to see a Bollywood Dance Scene show to appreciate just how inspiring they are on so many levels. Community theater productions with massive, multiracial casts, the company's Fringe shows weave original stories around dance performances of existing Bollywood songs. While the stories are accessible to the company's wide audience — and written with amateur actors in mind — they're knowing and forthright, engaging topics both silly and serious.
This year's show, Bezubaan, is a full-throated call for tolerance — of Muslims in particular. (An example of the script's sensibilities is the way it pivots straight from a gag about Minnesota/Wisconsin rivalry into a discussion of Hindu/Muslim suspicion.) It's awkward that there's only a single Muslim character, who is literally silent, but he's played by the handsome and fleet-footed Arun Velliangiri, who meets his match in a star-crossed romance with Sophie Gori's Hindu character.
By the end of the show, narrators Hetal Ascher and Madhu Bangalore are frank: America's tolerance is being put to the test, and the stakes may never have been higher. The open-hearted spirit of Bollywood Dance Scene leaves the company's big audiences with reason to hope.
Monday, August 8, 2016 by Jay Gabler in Arts & Leisure in City Pages.
It might be ambitious to solve the world’s prejudices in a one-hour Fringe show, but the creators of “Bezubaan: The Voiceless” give it the Bollywood try. Their answer to hate and ignorance, told through a polychrome collage of theater and dance, is love, especially the intercultural kind. With elaborate costumes, fancy foot patterns, and dance that fuses traditional Indian styles with western forms including swing, Bollywood Dance Scene’s latest offering doesn’t disappoint. The meta-theatrical narration gets a bit heavy-handed at times, but it’s a fun show.
By Sheila Regan, Stage & Arts StarTibune, August 06, 2016 - 12:14 PM
India’s Bollywood films often ask you to suspend your disbelief, but reward you with spectacular dance numbers. And that’s what you get in the musicals of Minneapolis’ Bollywood Dance Scene, which produced the most popular shows of the past two Fringes. The company returns with a tale of love and bigotry at the Midtown Global Market, a kind of Hindu vs. Muslim “Romeo and Juliet.” But dancing’s really the point (less so writing and acting), and Indian pop provides the soundtrack for a whole lot of well-constructed choreography, delivered by a high-energy, colorfully costumed cast of 78.
By ROB HUBBARD / SPECIAL TO THE PIONEER PRESS August 6, 2016 at 10:11 am
Five questions for Fringe producers including, "Justify your show’s existence in haiku form."
Dance brings happiness
Dance brings people together
Dance empowers all
By philliplow in Womb with a View, August 2, 2016
What’s great about Bollywood Dance Scene is now that they’ve been so successful in the Fringe, I hear from a lot of other Bollywood and South Asian and worldwide ethnic styles of dance. They’re like, “Wow, I never thought the Fringe could be for the kind of work I do, but now I see this, and I want to be a part of it.” So we’ve been getting a lot more applications.
By Pamela Espeland in MinnPost: Artscape, July 29
New ticketing system could mean big changes for annual theatre festival
A Bollywood Dance Scene production is no small thing. Divya Maiya, the nonprofit theater company’s founder and choreographer, said there are 90-some actors and dancers involved in this flashy, Bollywood muscial-style “dance-dramedy” set in an international market. “The theme of the show this year is xenophobia and Islamophobia, in particular, and it just kind of rings a bell with what’s going on right now,” Maiya said.
Their crowds aren’t small either. Bollywood Dance Scene had the best-selling show in the 2015 Fringe, so reserve tickets early to get a seat.
By Dylan Thomas in Southwest Journal, July 26, 2016
“Bezubaan: The Voiceless” by Bollywood Dance Scene. A Fringe Festival juggernaut, the creators of 2015’s best-selling show (at all U.S. festivals, Larson pointed out) are back with more storytelling, music and high-energy dancing. Larson noted that the cast is “so good at showing up at Fringe Central” (the festival’s end-of-day gathering place) “that we had to get a bigger bar.” This year it’s Republic on Cedar.
By Pamela Espeland | in MinnPost: Artscape 07/20/16
WordsAndPictures: Dance group co-founder Divya Maiya swirls to a fusion of music and cultures
When Maiya first started teaching, she heard from people that the classes helped bolster their sense of self. This got her thinking more about what dance could do for the participants as individuals. So they created a performance group that could appear at events and festivals in the Twin Cities. "Now we are a really big group, so we want people to take up leadership roles," she says.
By Sheila Regan in Women's Press March 10, 2016
Blumberg and other GiveMN staff spent Thursday morning at Metro Transit stops, handing out treats and donation cards to commuters. They were joined by entertainers ranging from Bollywood dancers to the St. Paul Ballet.
By Jean Hopfensperger in Star Tribune November 13, 2015 — 12:03AM
The 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival is in the books, and it appears that Bollywood won this year's event. Well, to be exact, the Bollywood Dance Scene did, as the company's Spicy Masala Chai "won" the Fringe triple crown: It sold the most tickets, tied for percentage of tickets sold, and sold out all six of its performances at the Rarig Center's proscenium stage.
By Ed Huyck in City Pages Tuesday, August 11, 2015
"I'm at a table that is near the impromptu dance floor that has sprung up in the space where the DJ used to be. It's the Bollywood group again. They break into dance almost anywhere. I guess they have reason to. They're on their way to being the best-selling show at the festival for a second year in a row."
BLOG POST BY DEREK LEE MILLER in Minnesota Playlist August 4, 2015
"Spicy Masala Chai is an all-out Bollywood dance spectacular that packed both the main floor and the balcony of the Rarig Proscenium. This was unabashed fun, a totally two-dimensional East-meets-West plot that scaffolds a series of enthusiastic and well-choreographed dance numbers (also East-meets-West, adding some contemporary influences to traditional Bollywood-style dancing)."
BLOG POST BY SOPHIE KERMAN in Minnesota Playlist August 2, 2015
"The University of Minnesota’s Rarig Center was abuzz with chatting patrons waiting for theater doors to open, hovering volunteers, and show creators peddling their productions with cards, pitches, even songs. I went to the U, and I’ve attended a few shows at Rarig, but I’ve never seen it so full of people and excitement. The energy inside, and spilling outside in long lines of eager attendees, was palpable."
By Brady Knutson | Posted: 07/31/2015 in MPLS St Paul Magazine, Arts Off the Cuff
What began as a trial Bollywood dance lesson at Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis three years ago has since morphed into something much, much bigger.
Now, the group has a name – Bollywood Dance Scene – and is an established community of like-minded people who are dedicated to dance, diversity and inclusivity.
And, in the last three years, interest in and support of Bollywood Dance Scene has grown to the point where the group has been able to do much more than teach dance.
In fact, in 2014, Bollywood Dance Scene became a women-led nonprofit organization with the mission of building community, cultural acceptance and social justice through dance....
By Wendy Jacobson in Minneapolis Happening, Friday July 24, 2015
"Who better to take us into the final big dance number than Bollywood Dance Scene?"
By "Jill" in Cherry and Spoon, Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The Minnesota Fringe Festival, which ended Sunday, eked out a new attendance record. The 11-day flurry of theater, dance and spoken word issued 50,226 tickets to 878 performances (an average of 57 people per show) and beat the previous high of 50,222 in 2010.
“It’s always great when we break through that 50,000 ticket mark,” said Jeff Larson, who is in his first year as executive director. “But it’s even better to have a new record.”
The festival has is calculating total revenue, about two-thirds of which is paid to artists. In 2013, total income was $365,101.
Bollywood Dance Scene’s “Hi! Hello! Namaste?” (pictured) had the highest attendance of the festival. “Fotis Canyon,” produced and performed byMike Fotis finished second and “Mainly Me Productions’ Our American Assassin; or You Can’t Handle the Booth!” (favorite title in the Fringe) was third.
It’s impossible not to smile your way through the joyous Hi! Hello! Namaste?, a production that advertises itself as “the first ever Bollywood dance drama being created for the Minnesota Fringe.” This is community theater at its best, and a genuine tribute to the infectiously silly spirit that’s won fans around the world for India’s movie musical spectaculars.
The show, staged by Bollywood Dance Scene—Twin Cities, frames interpretations of seven Bollywood dance songs in a story about a would-be medical student who travels from Minnesota to India to attend a cousin’s wedding, and learns a little something about herself and her family. In true Bollywood tradition, it’s a goofy yet heartfelt story with memorable turns for all the characters. Costumes change between every number, and every look seems more eye-popping than the last.
While most of these dancers are enthusiastic amateurs, the focus is definitely on enthusiastic—the smart and varied choreography (by a team of five collaborators) is performed with dedication, polish, and an irrepressible sense of fun. I’ve never seen such a consistently enthusiastic reception from any Fringe audience, and even if a lot of that is accounted for by the presence of friends and family members of the large cast, that’s perfectly in keeping with the community spirit that enlivens this wonderful show.
Here’s hoping the producers of Hi! Hello! Namaste? will make sure that this first-ever original Bollywood Minnesota Fringe dance drama isn’t the last. I have the feeling that in the wake of this hit show, they’ll be getting a lot of new students to help them out with that.
By Jay Gabler. Published in The Tangential, August 10, 2014
"She uses Bollywood Dance to joyfully connect people and raise awareness for social causes. Absolutely nothing intimidates her, and nothing gets her down.”
By Taylor Baldry. Published in POLLEN, June 1, 2014
Since its 1993 founding, this Twin Cities festival has remained uncensored and uncurated. This year's lineup includes a Bollywood dance show, a Tennessee Williams adaptation and "Top Gun: The Musical."
By Marie Glancy O'Shea, Special to CNN
Updated 9:48 AM ET, Mon May 5, 2014
Corey Anderson, MinnPost, 08/16/13
Hot Indian Flash Mob, featuring performers from Bollywood Dance Scene - Twin Cities, invaded the streets of downtown Minneapolis on Thursday to celebrate Indian Independence Day.
By Mili Dutta and Ankita Deka, March 2013
The One Billion Rising to End Violence Against Women: Twin Cities was the catalyst bringing hundreds of people together near the shore of frozen Powderhorn Lake on February 14th, Valentine’s Day at Powderhorn Park, Mpls The event featured speeches from prominent local activists representing a cross section of social identity groups in the twin cities; including Elder Atum Azzahir [below]. Other items in the evening included a Bollywood dancers Rashi Mangalick, Divya Maiya, and Jinal Jhavari [above] from local artists from the Tapestry folklore dance group, a Fire dance by local performer FyreSnake, and a flash dance “Break the Chain” that has been part of the global movement was also featured. Local artists from Oya’s Radio opened the event with their soulful music. Hundreds of people, including young children braved the cold to participate in the events. There was infectious enthusiasm in the air as the crowds cheered, danced, sang and marched. The event ended with a march around Powderhorn Park. Hot food and beverages were provided to the crowds by Sisters Camelot.