Twin Sensations

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The Chicago Pair’s Formula For Going Viral Is “Just Creating Awesomeness”

When they were small children, their mother sent them to dance school to learn Bharata Natyam which she herself had to discontinue half way through in Gujarat, following marriage and immigration to North America.

The two in deference to the wishes of their mother, trained in the classical dance form in Chicago, where their family had moved from Canada, for almost nine years before dabbling in Bollywood dance, and then like many others of their age, training in hip-hop in Los Angeles.

But what sets the 25-year-old twins – Poonam and Priyanka Shah – apart is that much to their disbelief, their home-made dance and choreography videos posted on YouTube have gone viral, getting millions of views from U.S. to India and elsewhere.

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“With our channel, we wanted to simply share our choreography, not knowing they would be so popular,” Priyanka said. In fact the two, both graduates from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, didn’t think much about their videos until they found out that American singer-songwriter Christopher Brown shared one of their videos on his official Facebook page.

“We had three Facebook videos go viral, with 5M, 1M, and 9M hits each. Going viral is wholly unpredictable. One video was just practicing in our kitchen, one was in a studio, and one was on the dance reality show ‘Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa’ stage in Mumbai last summer! So, there is no formula to going viral, and we just believe in creating awesomeness. Being happy with your work is what’s most important and to believe in your work!” Priyanka told Desi Talk in response to a question.

The two said that when their first video – choreographed rendition of “Ramta Jogi,” a song from the 1999 Bollywood film, “Taal” – went viral, it was just completely surreal for them. That video got five million views.

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“We had absolutely no clue any of our videos would go viral. It was beyond insane to see so many people from different walks of life, different countries, different ages, sharing our videos. Everyone’s comments were so positive and uplifting! It is so heartwarming to receive so much support and love!” Priyanka who spoke for both the sisters, said.

To a question Priyanka said the passion for dance has come from their childhood training in Bharata Natyam. “As far as choreography, we have both always been creative people and we like to experiment! We have been choreographing as long as we can remember – school dances, weddings, college dance teams. We have always thought to expand our dance training and we especially love Hip-hop,” Priyanka said, adding that their mother is “very happy seeing her dance dreams fulfilled.”

The duo said their choreography is their artistic outlet to express the combination of Indian and American identities through dancing. “We love to inspire others to create work they think is awesome too! If we can make someone on the internet feel the passion we feel when creating art, that’s the ultimate goal,” they said.

Last year the Desi Dance Network paid glowing tributes to the duo saying that the twins, combining Western influences with their traditional Bharata Natyam training, have broken barriers and paved the way for many Desi dancers and have taken over the dance community by storm.

But Priyanka and Poonam remain unmoved by such compliments. “We don’t consider ourselves professional dancers, actually! We aspire towards being in the industry in the future,” they said.

Asked about their experience at the set of “Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa” in Mumbai, where they were invited to participate last summer, the sisters described it as one of the “coolest experiences” of their lives to date. “It was awesome. Getting rid of the nerves for a platform like this was not possible, especially since we were the only ones who weren’t in the entertainment industry. The constant cameras and large stage took getting used to!

“Meeting Karan Johar and Farah Khan was surreal as they are our absolute favorites! Their movies literally made our childhood magical, and it was wonderful to perform in front of them. The coolest part of being on such a prestigious show was meeting all of the Bollywood celebrities and getting to see all of the hard work behind the scenes that makes the magic happen on screen. It was a great learning experience for us!” Priyanka said.

In future, the twins said they would love to choreograph/dance for exciting projects, but it is something they would do for personal fulfillment, more because they love it. “As far as work, we would like to build our brand, P&P, together. Our ultimate goal with dance is just to keep learning, growing, and creating.”