Bollywood dance is popular in US. Now the Americans are getting a taste of a classical Indian dance form, Kathak. LA based Amrapali Ambegaokar, a Kathak exponent, represents India in The Superstars of Dance, a dance reality show that premiered on NBC on January 5. Produced by Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller of American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance fame, the show has different dance genres from eight countries. In an exclusive chat with HT City, Amrapali, provides a glimpse of the highly anticipated dance show, which pits masters of different genres against each other.
Amrapali, who choreographed RGV’s Naach and then choreographed and acted in American Blend starring Anupam Kher and Dee Wallace agrees that Bollywood as a dance form has definitely become well known internationally. But would the American audience appreciate Kathak? “Kathak Dance, just like any other form of classical dance such as Ballet, is arguably less known, simply because classical styles can be more esoteric. Yet I’m excited that Superstars of Dance placed Kathak on a platform of the world’s stage. Kathak is beautifully rich and rhythmically virtuoso dance form and if the audience is truthful to their instincts, they will know good art when they see it, regardless of depth, popularity, or culture,” argues Amrapali.
She is confident of doing justice to the opportunity that has come her way. She is aware that much is expected of her. “Indeed I recognize the importance of India being represented in an international competition of such magnitude,” says Amrapali, but rubbishes the fact that she is any less than a Kathak dancer from India just because she is from the US. “I’ve been studying and dancing Kathak since I could walk. My mother, Anjani Ambegaokar, is my guru and her caliber can’t be challenged. She has pioneered Kathak dance in the US,” argued Amrapali.
So would Amrapali do pure Kathak or fuse it with other dance forms in Superstars of Dance? “I’ve been fusing Kathak Dance with Flamenco, Hip Hop and contemporary styles of dance. Now I have a very unique style where I syncopate my mastery of tatkar or footwork with music by Jennifer Lopez to Coldplay, Justin Timberlake to Gypsy Kings and more. You will see some of this fun in the show,” says Amrapali.
The Kathak exponent who has to her credit some pageant crowns — ‘Miss Asian America’ and ‘Miss Indian USA’ and has “acted on several major TV shows — Heroes, which will air in the US in mid February 2009 and a recurring role in over 13 episodes as Dr. Dani Mandvi on Grey’s Anatomy, since 2007” is a regular visitor to her native land, India. She says, “I am there to perform at various dance festivals. Even during childhood, half my time was spent in India with my mother who used to train with her guru there.”
But how confident is she about winning Superstars of Dance? “I am happy that there are no audience voting here. The judges are Masters of Dance themselves, and as this is a competition of Dance Masters it is only fair to be judged by fellow masters and mentors!”