Dancing Bharatnatyam, Bhangra, Bollywood in the streets of Manhattan

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Navatma Dance Company

Thousands of New Yorkers lined the street from Union Square to Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side, as the 11th Annual Dance Parade and Festival wound its way through the streets May 20.

At least four different Indian dances were among the 167 groups that performed on the streets of this multicultural city – Bharatnatyam, Bhangra, and Bollywood. Some of the other South Asian dances featured included Tibetan (Khaita Joyful Dances) and Sri Lankan dance forms (Behri Sri Lankan Dance and Drum). The eye-popping variety included anything from Hip Hop to Angolan dance, Polynesian, Mexican carnival, belly dancing, contemporary Jazz, Costa Rican, Slavic, ballet, disco, Chinese, samba, zumba, even twerking, you name it.

“Dance for Peace” was the theme of the parade this year.

The Indian themed dance groups included Navatma Dance Company which performed Bharatnatyam, Masala Bhangra, along with ADF Dance & Fitness Company and Taal Performing Arts, both of which performed Bollywood dances.

Sahasra Sambamoorthi, founder of Navatma Dance Company, which had its troupe at the Dance Parade, told Desi Talk, they had been participating in the festival over the last five years. Maya Kumar, one of three teachers and five children, who danced on the street this year, said it was another joyful year, especially for the children. “It was really good this year. Even though the troupe was smaller, the weather cooperated and the kids enjoyed it. It’s always great to be with all the dancers,” Kumar said. Last year 20 dancers from Navatma participated. The school sees it as an opportunity for students not only to showcase a classical Indian dance, but also to see the immense variety in the city.

Masala Bhangra, in usual form, did vigorous Bollywood dance routines geared toward fitness. Fans on social media praised the videos posted by the group on Facebook. “Get your BOLLYWOOD ON!!!!” said Rochelle Klein. “Such a great workout and so joyful!” said Dolores Boudreau Abbott. “Sending love to all my fellow masala bhangra dancers!!” said Maria Zoccoli.

At Tompkins Square Park at the end of the parade, there were four dance stages set up and Navatma teachers performed a 4-minute number on the main stage.

The post-parade DanceFest include a DJ’ed dance party, a teaching area with dance classes, and “Experience Dance” booths.

“Because Bharatnatyam is so elaborate, people stop by to comment on the dresses,” Sambamoorthi said. “It inspires the kids beyond belief to see so many dancers,” she added.

“Our 80+ unique dance styles are the world’s largest display of cultural diversity,” say the organizers of the Dance Parade, adding, “We keep historical dances alive, like Armenian Folk dancing and Bolivian Caporales, and showcase new dance forms like Litefeet, Waacking and Brazillian Zouk. We unite cultures and generations, introducing teenagers to tango, clubbers to square-dancing, and seniors to hip-hop.”

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