Bollywood dance lends itself well to flash mobbing. The smooth moves of Indian cinema can be complex in choreography or quite simple; imagine just a few hip shakes dressed up with swaths of colourful cotton, bangles, and a backbeat, all being unfurled on the public square.
It will be this planned spontaneity, plus a sense of collectivity, that will be writ large on July 8 and 9 when Montreal choreographer Roger Sinha presents OttaW(olly)Wood as part of Canada Dance Festival.
After a call for auditions went out earlier in the year, non-professional dancers were selected; a few weeks of practice sessions followed. Soon, these 150 citizens of the capital will gather at the National Gallery of Canada for a live performance that’s been honed by Sinha and Montreal choreographer Deepali Lindblom. (The duo launched an edition called Montre(olly)Wood in 2016 and will do so again this July for that city’s 375th anniversary.)
The Ottawa and Montreal events are being billed as intercultural creations — and the emphasis is important. Intercultural, as between cultures, evokes a coming together as opposed to a borrowing of. It’s not “othering” and fetishizing the idea of Indian modern and folkloric dance to make it something to be consumed.
Instead, the choreographers’ collaborative approach means dancers have the chance to add their own take on Bollywood. Asking dancers and audiences to think too deeply on the underlying philosophy of the event might be a tall order, especially given that Bollywood is known for its indulgent tales and high gloss.
But it’s not a total stretch to think that diversity will be on the minds of spectators and participants. After all, our 150th is a chance to reflect upon our multiculturalism, something we should do more of — if we don’t, it’s like using the good dishes only for special occasions. Without #Canada150, how often do we see a bunch of citizens get out to bust a move in the name of their country?