Bollywood comes to the Olympics

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US Ice Dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White brought Bollywood to the Vancouver Olympic Ice Dancing Competition on Sunday night. In a crowd pleasing and most assuredly judge pleasing Original Dance, the two skaters put on a fabulous show skating to ‘Kajre Re’ from Bunty Aur Babli and some selections from Devdas including ‘Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka’ and ‘Dola Re Dola’. The two are the reigning US Champions and with their fabulous performance Sunday night that included authentic Indian dance moves, brilliant twizzles, and great energy, they ended in a solid second place behind the Canadian couple Virtue and Moir.

The competition for Ice Dancing includes three separate performances: Compulsory, Original, and Free. Each season, the Original dance has a theme that the skaters must work within and this year it was Folk/Country. Davis and White’s coach Marina Zueva wanted to do something new and exciting and thought an Indian inspired piece would fit the two to perfection.”She thought it would be something different,” Davis said in an interview with Rediff. “Not a lot of people had performed with Bollywood music on ice. And she felt our personalities might translate well into this type of movement.”

To make sure that the choreography was true to Indian styles, Davis and White studied with Michigan-based teacher Anuja Rajendra, who is trained Bharata Natayam dance. To prepare them for the type of movement in the choreography, for over three months she showed them DVDs of dance numbers and had them dance behind her in the studio. Rajendra said, “I felt that if it was going to represent India and its culture then it had to be something special. The steps I taught them were geared around that.” When it finally came together on ice, she went to the rink and made sure that all the hand and arm movements were correct.

In an interview with the Lansing State Journal, Rajendra said, “I think we did a really good job. When you look at it, there’s no denying what you’re watching and what you’re feeling. It’s not just about putting steps out there, but getting the nuances and the music and the right energy that even someone who isn’t too familiar with Indian dance can feel that they’re being transported into something special.”

The pair also wanted to make sure the costumes were authentic. White wore a gold sherwani and Davis appeared in a lovely red ghara choli costume. They obtained the clothes at an Indian boutique in Michigan and then had them fitted so they would work on the ice.

The two have performed the number in competition all season and it has been well received everywhere. In fact, a video of them on YouTube has over 250,000 hits, which makes them a hit on and off the ice! The global success of the number excited Rajendra. “I think it’s wonderful. I hope it inspires people from around the world to tune into the Olympics. I hope it inspires people from around the world to take up dancing and ice dancing. How cool would it be, ten years from now, to have Indians make a foray into ice dancing? Maybe some little girl in Delhi who is 4 years old and is inspired.”

With their high score for the Bollywood number, which was a personal best, they were well established to end up on the podium. Davis and White went on to do a beautiful Free dance on Monday night and ended up taking home the silver medal! Vah!!

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