Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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A-NU-Bhav brings Bollywood dance to campus

Building from two national competition wins this year, A-NU-Bhav, Northwestern’s Hindi Film Dance team, will head to Ohio State University April 8 to compete in its last event of the season.

The 3-year-old group also nearly won an online voter’s choice bid for Bollywood America, the biggest Bollywood competition in the country, just losing the lead to a team from UCLA. But team co-captain Lakshmi Ramachandran said the loss is OK by her because the votes they received demonstrated NU’s support.

“We had over 5,000 votes,” she said. “I think we did pretty awesome.”

She said the progress the group has made is impressive.

“It’s kind of crazy when we think back,” Ramachandran, a Communication and Weinberg senior, said. “I feel definitely the team has grown a lot, not only in its members but just overall as an idea of what a Bollywood dance team is.”

Hindi Film Dance or “filmi” numbers are based on the dance scenes common in Bollywood films, Ramachandran said. These numbers often include stunts like basket tosses and lifts. In addition, HFD follows a plot, with each routine including dialogue, props and a backdrop.

“We use dance to tell the story, and that’s how it’s different from other Indian dance forms,” said co-captain Ravi Shah, a SESP senior. “It’s also a fusion of a lot of western dance styles – they mix in a lot of ballroom styles, hip-hop, even recently contemporary dance.”

In 2008, Shah helped found A-NU-Bhav with three other students after the team they had been members of disbanded. While the old team specialized in Raas, a more traditional Indian dance, A-NU-Bhav moved toward Bollywood.

Shah said he had expected A-NU-Bhav to experience a “building year.” But that fall, about 100 students attended the team’s first set of auditions for 14 open spots.

In its first year, A-NU-Bhav won first place at Srujan, the competition it will take part in next week. A-NU-Bhav continues to hold large-scale auditions each fall, with more than 80 people auditioning in a three-part process.

“We had a 12-hour session where we all sat down in my living room and stayed up until 6 a.m. and deliberated,” Shah said.

In total, A-NU-Bhav has 20 dancers. The team focuses on learning the year’s material during Fall Quarter. A-NU-Bhav also performs at events on and off campus. Most competitions take place Winter Quarter, when A-NU-Bhav finalizes routines.

Yet A-NU-Bhav’s members do more than dance. Due to the nature of HFD, they’re tasked with creating costumes and hand-painting a 20 by 30 feet backdrop.

“The thing about Bollywood dance is that it’s not just the routine,” Ramachandran said. “I see it also as a theatrical production.”

Ramachandran and Shah chose Bollywood songs, choreographed the dancing and developed the storyline for A-NU-Bhav’s routine. Each HFD plot is a variation on the Bollywood formula, Ramachandran said.

“In the typical Bollywood story, there’s a guy and a girl, they fall in love and then there’s some conflict for why they can’t be together,” she said. “It’s resolved, and there’s happily ever after.”

This year, Shah plays a prince masquerading as a commoner; he falls in love with village girl Ramachandran. Their love is almost thwarted by a palace adviser’s daughter, who seeks to marry the prince for his money. Ramachandran estimated that she wears 12 different costumes in the eight-minute performance, which includes seven dance numbers.

Still, HFD is about more than romance. Audience members find humor in Indian pop culture references and exaggerated performances, Ramachandran said.

As the team prepares for Srujan, Ramachandran said A-NU-Bhav has already changed parts of the routine.

“We want to change the choreography to not only better the team but to better fit the capability of what the team is,” she said. “Sometimes they’re smaller tweaks and sometimes they’re bigger, but it’s always to improve the team.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
A-NU-Bhav brings Bollywood dance to campus