Bollywood certainly is gaining notice all around the world and it is not just the movies. The Bollywood dance style is showing up on many of the talent and dance competitions, including the popular television show Britain’s Got Talent. In fact, a Bollywood dance company has made it into the semi-finals of this season’s Britain’s Got Talent. The Threebee dance company made a big impression on the judges in their audition and got the coveted three YESes. I got the chance to catch the director and choreographer Shweta Aggarwal after the stage rehearsal for the show and we talked about the company, dance of course and she gave me just a tiny hint on what the group has planned for their routine in tomorrow night’s semi-final live show.
Tell us about the Threebee Dance Company.
I founded Threebee about six years ago. What inspired me to start the company is basically that I have loved Bollywood dancing since childhood. Coming to London, I realized that there is such a big Asian community here. It is such an open city, such an accepting city and it not just cultures, but with different styles of dance as well, that it kind of inspired me to start my own dance company. I am actually an IT programmer by background. So, I started about six years ago with small things like classes and just a couple of dancers. I spotted them in my own classes, thinking they are great dancers I thought I can build a professional group slowly and gradually. We now have about 16 dancers that are in Britain’s Got Talent number, but the actual company has about 24 dancers.
Tell us about your dancers in the group. Are they all professional dancers?
No, they are not. They are all actually dancers who work in the city, there is one doctor, there is a dentist, there is a physiotherapist, there a few bankers, there are a couple of consultants, there are a few students. Their age ranges from 18-30. They just love dancing to Bollywood and they love being part of Threebee. We basically rehearse every Sunday for about 4-5 hours. This is when things are not very busy, but still they give up more than half their Sunday every week to be dancing with this group. Then, of course, when we are busy for something like this [Britain’s Got Talent] for example, we have been dancing every night after work from 6:30-9:30.
Why is the company called Threebee?
Because officially our company name, when I registered it back then, was Bollywood and Bhangra Beats – BBB. So, just to make it simple for my website address, I called it Threebee as opposed to BollywoodandBhangraBeats.com, that was just too long. (laughs) People started knowing us more as Threebee and so now I actually changed our name. We actually call ourselves Threebee – Bold, Beautiful and very Bollywood.
You say on your website you are innovative Bollywood, what do you mean?
What we mean is that recently we have been trying fusion sort of stuff. We don’t just do the standard lovey-dovey, cheesy, romantic Bollywood stuff and that’s it. Bollywood itself is changing so much and it has a lot of influences – it now has hip-hop and modern and so we do that as well. On top of that, say for example we are hired for a clients’ wedding and they want a customized performance. What we will do is we will ask them about their love story, how they met and then we will actually create an entire medley and will select songs that will summarize their love story. The next level we have taken it too is that we not using just Bollywood songs, but we are mixing it with different songs all together. We use western pop music, but keeping that Bollywood element in it and selecting songs that match with Bollywood. For example: the track ‘Addictive’ by Truth Hurts, they have this Bollywood thing in the background, we will choose songs like that and we will perform to that as well.
What to you defines the Bollywood dance style? Like you said, it is such an amalgamation of so many styles now.
Absolutely. There’s no one word to describe it. I think it is literally a fusion of any dance style you can think of. The one thing that Bollywood does encapsulate and the thing that kind of stands it out is that I find that it is a really warm and very welcoming form of dance. It draws you in because it is happy and lively and energetic and it’s got color. A lot of other dance styles are beautiful dance forms or something that can be sharp and sexy, but they don’t necessarily draw the audience in. You are watching it as ‘oh this is a great show’, but I think Bollywood really draws you in and almost makes you feel like you want to be part of that group.
Threebee is in the semi-finals for Britain’s Got Talent. How has that experience been so far?
It’s been great! I don’t think it had even hit us yet until today, when we actually got on stage for our stage rehearsal – we were like ‘Oh My God! This is actually happening’. (laughs) It has been such a roller coaster ride I have to say. Lots of ups and downs, lots of hardships we have had to go through. Not just as a group, because when you have a lot of people, obviously there is a lot of pressure and stress so you do have issues, but also with the TV production company and how it all has kind of been handled. I think it is just a lot of stress on so many people, because it is such a big show it is bound to be a roller coaster ride. But, we have really enjoyed it.
You got really good comments from the judges and a standing ovation from the audience. How did that feel?
It was like a dream. I actually couldn’t believe it. I was sitting in the audience watching my dance group and I saw people around me standing up and had people tapping me on the shoulder saying, ‘Well done! That was amazing!’
It is a shame that they cut some of what the judges said. Piers actually said, “We have had a lot of Bollywood dance groups auditioning for the show and you guys by far are the best Bollywood group we have seen”. Amanda said, “100% agree with him. The choreography was really slick and you were just such a fun bunch that I wish I was a part of your troupe.”
You danced to ‘Jai Ho’ from Slumdog Millionaire. Why did you pick that song for the piece?
Well, I have to admit that I think Bollywood has been growing in the UK slowly and gradually in the last few years. Starting with Bombay Dreams, then Shilpa Shetty being on [Celebrity] Big Brother and a few other things like that. There is also a troupe called Merchants of Bollywood that come around every year and perform in a theater. It is just growing and people are becoming very aware of Bollywood. Having said that, Slumdog Millionaire was the icing on the cake. Although I know it is not really a typical Bollywood movie and it is actually not by a Bollywood director, all the non-Asians here will still put it in that bucket that it is a Bollywood movie. ‘Jai Ho’ has become like the national anthem almost and it was because of that it was an obvious choice. We don’t want to just reach out to the Asian audience but also the non-Asian audience. That is why I think they related to it straight away.
What can we expect from the company in the semi-finals?
We are doing something quite different. We are taking a little bit of a risk because we are mixing some music. We are taking Simon’s comments on board, because he did say he wanted to see some music mixing, so we are doing that. I think we have got a really good mix of the typical classical Bollywood stuff and then something that is completely unexpected. We are keeping that a surprise and we are just really, really excited and we’re very confident that the audience is just going to love it.
Besides winning of course, what are your hopes for your exposure on Britain’s Got Talent?
We would love to have our own production touring around the world. Apart from that my dream would be to perform on platforms like the BAFTAs, the Oscars, the Olympics, stuff like that!
Would you be interested in doing Bollywood films as well?
Yeah, absolutely. We would love that. We do get calls from time to time for Bollywood dancers for movies. But it is funny, you know, because it is a shame that they have started going towards and they sort of search more for white dancers. We do get calls and I say, we have Asian dancers and they say, no we actually looking for white dancers. It is a shame that they do that.
It certainly seems that Bollywood and Bollywood dance is getting much more known the world over. Do you find that to be true?
I definitely see that happening. In the next couple of years I think that it is just going to become so big. That is another dream that I have, that every dance studio or company that has 10 dance classes running should have Bollywood as one of them. Not just five different styles of street and 2-3 hip-hop and one salsa and that is it. It should be a given that any dance studio in the world should have a Bollywood dance class as well. I think people are going to see how fun it is. It is so much fun and so energetic – it is the best way to work out.
What do you think makes Bollywood so special?
Along with the energy and that it draws people in it is the expressions. Also the story telling aspect of Bollywood and the escapism that Bollywood offers is something that is cheesy, but yet it makes you feel good. It is the feel good factor.
What to you makes a good dancer?
For me, technique is something you can always work on. It is the passion, it is the stage presence and it is the energy.
What do you think is the thing that is going to get the judges notice in the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent?
I think it is our mixing of the music. It is only a minute and half that you get to perform. Only the first 30 seconds is your typical Bollywood stuff, then after that the next thing we are doing we are really, really hoping that that is going to be a big surprise for judges and they are going to be like ‘WOW. Okay that is your selling point’.
I am certainly intrigued to see what they have put together to wow the judges once again! Be sure to tune in tomorrow night, May 31st at 7:30 to catch the Threebee dance company perform. I know I will be watching! To all the dancers of the company – Break a leg!