Even though I was born in Minnesota, I’ve always found myself drawn to India, especially the vibrant music and captivating dancing. I was introduced to Bollywood film before college, which I instantly fell in love with due to the amazing dance sequences, among a myriad other factors. This led me to take a few university courses on the subject, and also to enjoy it in my free time. Unfortunately my college friends never agreed to watch Bollywood movies with me – there’s something repulsive about subtitles to Americans, and there was no way to sway them. Even after college, I never found friends or a community to share my love of India with. I typically ended up watching Bollywood movies on Netflix by myself, which obviously made me feel really cool.
One day, in a fit of despair and loneliness, I googled “Bollywood Twin Cities” to see if there was anyone out there with similar interests. I was surprised to find a dance group called Bollywood Dance Scene – Twin Cities (BDS), and after investigating (stalking) their Facebook page I decided to check out their Thursday night drop-in dance class. Even though I’m a terrible dancer, I had a great time jamming and learning choreography to my favorite Bollywood songs (something I had previously only done at home or in the car) and getting to know people with similar interests. I’m very shy and not the best at making friends, so it was amazing when I started to connect with a few people over the course of a few classes! But unfortunately, a sudden change in my work schedule made it so I couldn’t attend classes any longer. Sadly, I thought I was done with Bollywood…
…but apparently Bollywood wasn’t done with me! About a year later, my friend called and asked me to try out for a Bollywood play. Apparently BDS had landed a slot in the 2014 Minnesota Fringe Festival, which is essentially a performing arts takeover of Minneapolis: nearly 200 shows give 5 performances each over the course of 11 days. Minnesota has one of the biggest Fringe Festivals in North America, so trying out for this play was a very enticing opportunity!
After nearly chickening out, I finally mustered the courage to audition for a dancing role in the play, which was called Hi! Hello! Namaste? (HHN). Feeling like I was already in way over my head with something I was totally unqualified for, I somehow let myself get talked into something I was even less qualified for: showing up the following Saturday to audition for an acting role. But I showed up anyway, and luckily for me there was a character I connected with – Brittany, a flirty girl visiting India for the first time, and the love interest of a goofy character named Bunty. The audition went surprisingly well, and soon after I was told I got the part!
It was a few weeks before I met the guy playing Bunty, who turned out to be just as goofy and romantic in real life as his on-stage counterpart. His name was Vikram. He was Indian and had only been working in the U.S. for about six months at the time. He, like me, had been drawn into the play by the people closest to it. But unlike me, he is an amazing dancer and had been spotted at a recent Holi festival, where he was told he must try out for HHN! 🙂
The next few months were a blur of BDS and HHN: music video shoots, acting rehearsals, dance practices, flash mobs, news appearances, radio interviews, and cast and crew outings: dinners, comedy shows, movie nights, fireworks, parties, and more. Although rehearsals were only 3-4 days a week, the cast became so tight-knit that we were together nearly 24/7 and loved every moment of it – we became a family. As a result, somewhere along the line the on-stage romance of Brittany and Bunty transferred off-stage to Allison and Vikram. But we kept it strictly business around the cast and crew, and decided not to officially go out until after the play had finished. (How professional of us, I know 🙂 )
While the lead-up to the play seemed like all fun and games, the HHN performances themselves ended up being a veritable rollercoaster of chaos, nerves, adrenaline, and pure childlike joy. Opening night happened to be the same day that I had an enormous carnival to orchestrate at work (and I mean a literal carnival), and it didn’t stop there. We had five nights of shows back-to-back (which is uncommon for the Fringe Festival), most of which started with a sold-out crowd and ended with a standing ovation. We headed to “Fringe Central” at The Crooked Pint bar nearly every night, and tore the roof off the place when we found out we had gotten the encore performance slot for highest ticket sales at our venue. And on top of all the HHN-related excitement, I was also excited to finally go out with Vikram!
Well let me tell you, we did go out..and out…and out. Things began to move very fast for us, and if I thought the HHN performances were a rollercoaster, I had no idea what was coming.
Before I knew it we were talking marriage and meeting his family over Skype. Once his parents approved of our union, I found myself being completely blindsided by an enormous flash mob proposal that was Bollywood in every sense of the word. Of course, all of our BDS friends were there to celebrate the special moment with us – only they could manage to pull off such a feat <3
What came next was a whirlwind of jetting off to India to get married, followed by nonstop rehearsals for our new BDS Fringe Festival show, Spicy Masala Chai, followed almost immediately by our American wedding. When it was all over, we breathed a big, long, contented, grateful sigh of relief and thought about how how lucky we are to be living this crazy, incredible life.
Looking back, I am amazed at how much my life has changed since Bollywood Dance Scene has come into it. Not only has BDS transformed the ho-hum life of a bland Midwesterner into something of a real-life Bollywood fairy tale, it’s also given birth to an amazing group of people whose lives are so interwoven and integral to one another’s that it can only be called a family – one that we are forever grateful to be a part of. And although we are living across the country, we take comfort in knowing that we will always have our big BDS family waiting for us when we finally return home <3
So on the off-chance that you’re ever in Minneapolis on a Thursday night, consider dropping in to one of Bollywood Dance Scene’s classes…you never know, it might change your life!
If you want to watch the full version of Hi! Hello! Namaste? – where it all started – you can do so here 🙂
If you want to watch a backstage video from Hi! Hello! Namaste? where Vikram (very quietly) says “I’m excited to propose to Brittany on stage tonight”, you can do so here <3
If you want to watch the full version of Spicy Masala Chai (which somewhat mirrors our real-life relationship!), you can do so here 🙂
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!