February 6, 2005
Janky picture courtesy of my LG VX6000 “camera” phone
So, in case the blur of over-exposed pixels above doesn’t quite speak for itself: It’s a bunch of Indian-American college students busting it out at Bollywood Berkeley, a Hindi film dance team competition (!) at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last night.
The idea, loosely, is to replicate those dance scenes in Bollywood films. There’s always:
- a guy
- a girl
- the guy’s posse
- the girl’s friends
- costume changes
And these dance teams — from Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, UC Irvine, etc. — inject a pretty strong dose of hip-hop, too. So it’s total booty fusion.
And you should have seen this place. A thousand people in the sold-out hall, probably 95 percent Indian and Indian-American, from USC sorority girls in halter-tops to their grandmas in traditional salwar kameez. Families arrived in long lines, three generations strong, all eyes roving for a row of eight or ten seats to accomodate them.
When the show finally started, it was a weird overlay of cultures: college chants from the crowd (“U-S-C! U-S-C!” vs. “Let’s go Staan-foord”) and Indian jokes from the MCs (“So, we’re getting started at 7 p.m. Indian Standard Time… 7:30.”).
The guys’ dances were a particular revelation: Somehow in Bollywood they’ve developed a language of motion that is totally masculine — macho, even — without being subdued. I mean, these guys were literally jumping all over the place, flailing their arms and kicking their legs, but there was nothing goofy or effeminate about it.
As for the girls, I will say just this: I am totally pro-midriff.
I really appreciated the sincerity of the show. There are plenty of opportunities to be cynical when you’re emulating these cheesy movies. But while the teams made plenty of knowing winks at the form, their performances weren’t satires. They were fun, sexy, accomplished celebrations of simple love: choreographed tales of woo.
For the record, Berkeley won, to the whoops and cheers of a thousand unironic Indian grandparents.