East meets West with “Bhangra Nation”

Anusha Singh Wednesday 07th February 2024 10:13 EST

"Bhangra Nation – A New Musical" is an exhilarating and vibrant production centred around competitive Bhangra dancing. Scheduled to run at Birmingham Rep from February 17 to March 16, 2024.

 The show unfolds the dynamic story of Mary and Preeti's Bhangra team qualifying for the USA nationals. As they embark on individual journeys, each determined to dance to their unique rhythm, the musical weaves together competitive Bhangra with various Indian and Western dance forms. This brash, intoxicating, and joyous musical comedy offers a contemporary exploration of the world of competitive Bhangra, creating a captivating fusion of cultures.

Rujuta Vaidya, a prominent Bollywood choreographer associated with the musical promises a powerful and pulsating experience for the audience, shedding light on her choreography, experience and other aspects.

How did you get involved with 'Bhangra: The Musical'? What drew you to this particular project?

I was actually in New York, engrossed in various film and TV projects when the writers approached me with this project. They had learned about my work, and a connection was established. This is the first time I have delved into musical theatre, and while the genre incorporates Bollywood elements to a certain level, but not to the extent of the full-fledged productions on West End or Broadway. They approached me with the script, which I found absolutely captivating, and I eagerly agreed to be part of this groundbreaking project that holds significant importance for the South Asian community.

Is the musical all about Bhangra or have you incorporated other Indian and Western dance forms to create a unique choreography?

The dance is a great representation of the actual tone of the whole show, embodying a hybrid blend of various forms. With a backdrop rooted in the collegiate punk rock community in America, our show encompasses a diverse range of dance styles, including hip-hop, contemporary, Bollywood, tutting, and more. This diversity mirrors the essence of the show, centred around the representation of different identities. And you can see that translates across in the dance forms. The show has a flavour of ABCD(Anybody Can Dance) meets Pitch Perfect. It's definitely a fun, young show, where two teams do go head-to-head with each other. A remarkable aspect of our show is the introduction of Indian styles into the musical theatre format on this grand scale. It's an incredible blessing, and I feel a profound responsibility to our community to do justice to this endeavour.

What has your experience working with a diverse cast been like?

This marks my debut working in the UK, as most of my previous work has been in America and India. The UK experience has been remarkable, and I must say, the cast is not only exceptionally talented but also beautiful inside out. There's a fascinating hybridity within the cast, with many members being of mixed race—individuals embodying both South Asian and other backgrounds. This diversity within the cast aligns seamlessly with the essence of the show, reflecting its themes of identity and cultural amalgamation. Much like the show's characters, our cast represents the complexity of identity in a world where various cultures coexist. This shared experience makes the show even more special, as it touches on moments that everyone can relate to—a universal exploration of self, amidst diverse cultures and backgrounds.

What are some challenges you are facing as you rehearse for this musical?

Our most significant challenge actually revolved around the casting process. This show demands a unique set of skills, often referred to as a "triple threat" in musical theatre—requiring proficiency in singing, dancing, and acting. However, our production goes beyond the conventional musical theatre styles, incorporating a diverse range of dance forms, it's more like a quadruple or quintuple threat, demanding a versatile set of skills. Finding individuals with the ability to sing, dance, and act at a high level, while also being adept in Western dance styles, presented a unique set of challenges in assembling the right cast for the production.

How do you hope this musical will resonate with the audience?

I aspire for audiences to embrace the message that each of us is a unique individual, and in the spectrum of life, there's no definitive right or wrong, no strict black or white—only shades of grey. Everyone has their place, and it's crucial to recognise that being one way doesn't make you right, just as being another way doesn't make you wrong. Our uniqueness is a collective beauty, a harmony of blending the old with the new, whether in mindset, tradition, style, individuality, or personal growth. 

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