Spring 2015

Hurray for Bollywood

Lifelong passion for dance leads to TV competition

Shivani H. Patel grew up in Methuen, Massachusetts, on a steady diet of Bollywood films. She studied Indian dance and dreamed of one day appearing in the Hindi-language productions, which are filled with elaborate musical routines.

But life unfolded in a more practical manner, and she landed at Tufts as a clinical instructor of operative dentistry, with a husband and two young children.

So when Patel, A03, D08, appeared onstage last December as a finalist in “Dance India Dance,” a competition on the Indian cable channel Zee TV, it was both unexpected and delightful. “My dream was to be in Bollywood one day, but I never thought it would happen now, after I was married and had kids and a profession,” she says.

300W_DSC_9726“Dance India Dance” is similar to the American amateur dance competition “So You Think You Can Dance?” This episode featured moms of Indian descent from North America performing in what is known as the Bollywood style, a fusion of traditional Indian dance with modern jazz and hip-hop. Patel attended an audition in Burlington, Massachusetts, where 53 women were chosen from the hundreds who turned out. From there she went to New Jersey, where the group was whittled down to 12 finalists who were whisked off to Mumbai, home of the Bollywood film industry. While she did not make it to the top three, she says the opportunity to perform on TV, meet Bollywood stars and enjoy a moment of fame in the Indian diaspora community was remarkable.

Patel began taking classical Indian dance lessons at age 8 and spent her childhood “dragging my whole extended family” to monthly dance recitals. As an undergraduate, she was a member of the Tufts bhangra and garba folk dance teams (bhangra is a style of dance from Punjab, and garba, from Gujarat) and has taught at Indian dance academies in the Boston suburbs. She also produces her own exercise videos on YouTube, called “Dance Like a Bollywood Mom.”

“Dancing just makes me happy no matter what’s going on,” Patel says. “And dance has a lot to do with using your hands. I like working with my hands, which is one of the reasons I got into dentistry.” —Helene Ragovin

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