“Nara, this is HUGE. Are you listening?”…
As Portia told me the details I realized this was an opportunity I could NOT miss.
Peta Murgatroyd and Gilles Marini from the ABC hit TV show “Dancing With The Stars” flew to Miami in need of a choreographer to prepare an authentic Bollywood presentation for their next performance. They called Belly Motions and I was sent!
With an hour to get to their location and only one day to teach them an ENTIRE choreography there was no time to even react to the news. As I raced through the typical traffic on I-95, I frantically tried to pull myself together. I had a million questions and no idea what to be expect. I began to brainstorm ideas; I wanted to present something that would impress them, the judges and the audience. It was a lot of pressure but I knew I could help!
As I entered the dance studio, my heart pounded against my chest.
I instantly met Peta, the beautiful blonde who immediately said, “I need a sexy dance.” I looked down at my red dupatta traditionally tied around my conservative black dance wear outfit, coupled with a simple black bindi, “I can try…” I muttered, intimidated by the cameras and the extremely talented TV stars.
Then, as if I wasn’t nervous enough, I met Gilles. I couldn’t put my finger on where exactly I had seen him until I remembered the “Sex and the City” movie where I saw him—all of him. This made me blush a little. Despite my realization, I found him not only handsome but very polite.
Peta came prepared with a song; that was it! In one day I had to prepare an entire choreography and teach these two dancers a completely new dance style to be judged on national televison. Wow!
I knew Peta was classically trained and Gilles had graceful ballroom technique because I had seen them perform on the show before doing fancy footwork, flips and spins. However, I knew Bollywood would be a challenge.
In Bollywood the music tells a story that’s related to the audience with the use of not just hands and feet, but even fingers and eyes, the smallest detail such as a head wiggle can make a difference in what a dancer is trying to say!
After the initial shock, the Bollywood dance instructor you have all grown to know and love took charge!
Peta and Gilles had strong dancer bodies and took constructive criticism well making the choreography unique and exciting. The couple was easy to work with, not typical “Hollywood” types. They were nice, regular people focused on winning a nationally syndicated TV show.
Peta had ideas of dance concepts she wanted to incorporate, having prepared a little by watching a few Bollywood music videos. Gilles wanted to do strong, warrior-type movements but Peta shot them down immediately.
At one point, after hours of practice, Peta suddenly became upset. Bollywood seemed so easy on screen but the realization of how detailed and foreign it was overwhelmed her. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “This is very important to me, I need to win.”
I reassured her, “You are going to get this. Don’t think about the whole dance, just work on each section at a time. It’s going to happen.” Encouraged by my words, she collected herself and continued to practice.
Meanwhile, Gilles and I worked on his mudras (hand gestures); the determination in his face said it all. He was going to do whatever was needed get those “10’s” to put the competing couple back on top.
As I left the rehearsal, Peta and Gilles thanked me for my work. “We couldn’t have done it without you!” said Peta, excitedly. Gilles touched my arm gently, his brown eyes sparkled, “You’re our savior.” “I know.” I blurted out stupidly. Realizing what I had just said, I quickly took it back, “Please! Don’t put that on camera!”
Peta and Gilles’ performance received a near perfect score of 39.5 out of 40. This not only kept them on the show but was the highest score of the season!
Through Peta and Gilles’ performance I was able to share the art of Bollywood with the world and show who I was as a choreographer. What once seemed like the dream of a little girl had become a reality; my choreography would be seen by millions of Americans on TV.
Watching Gilles transform into a dashing Bollywood hero and Peta, his charming queen made me so proud. This was an experience I will never forget!