Ticket to Bollywood (New Town Theatre, 7 – 30 Aug : 21.30 : 1hr)

“Thoroughly enjoyable and an impressive showcase of the best of Indian dancing”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

Ticket to Bollywood is split into three distinct parts, each of which is given a short audio introduction to explain the style and background of the dance. The first of these covers love and marriage (very common themes in Bollywood films), and at first the six girls perform with the innocence of teenagers, being supportive and playful with a photograph of one of their loves. When the boys enter, it all gets much more flirtatious, and games are played between the two groups as if not wanting to appear to keen. There is a very brief duet between the two lovers, which is surprisingly less expressive and a bit more awkward than the group numbers, but the section ends in a big bright wedding celebration.

Next comes a section focusing on traditional dance, and three screens are brought on to stage, which three girls dance in front of, and three more make silhouettes behind them. However, it’s not long before they are all together and in the middle of another high energy group routine. The male dancers bring a real sense of bravado with their very macho and aggressive routine, which resorts into a short fight sequence, complete with weaponry.

The last section is loosely themed around celebration, and while I’m sure there were differences between this and the previous two, style-wise to me this section didn’t produce anything we hadn’t already seen, apart from an interesting array of props. It was no-holds-barred up-tempo extravaganza.

While the group routines, always in perfect unison, were very powerful and precise, for me it was the sections where added props were used that really stood out. These ranged from oversized lotus flowers to swords and shields, kites and huge poles. Their creative use made this piece really unique and made these moments definitely raised the bar when compared to the rest of the performance. I should also mention the absolutely stunning costumes throughout, which really added to the overall colour and sense of show this performance brought.

For a show that’s basically an hour of non-stop dancing it’s performed with amazing energy, attention to detail and beaming smiles. Yet despite the overwhelming sense of celebration it exudes, I would have liked to see some calmer or more restrained sections to balance out some of the franticness. I also felt a little cheated that the singing wasn’t live, and that almost all the music was pre-recorded, and I would personally call this show dance rather than musical theatre.

However, that’s not to say it wasn’t thoroughly enjoyable and an impressive showcase of the best of Indian dancing. Just not quite what I was expecting.


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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 27 August)

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India Flamenco (Alba Flamenca, 7 -31 Aug : 18.15 : 1hr)

“A sensual evocation of the gypsy tradition through dance”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

The performance begins with a narrative delivered from off stage set to the music of the sitar. We, the audience, are told of the legacy of a dying Gypsy chief in Northern India where the peoples began. He charges the tribe to roam the world with the aid of a magic mirror which will guide them, in order to spread the message of the Gypsies – to live in happiness and harmony with respect for each other and nature.

The dance begins with the traditional ‘Bharata Natyam’ performed by a young Indian woman full of grace, energy and control. As the narrative progresses she hands the metaphorical baton to a belly dancer and leaves the stage, showing how the movement has spread to Africa. Through this sensuous, sinuous and lithe new dancer and energetic choreography we are shown the development of movement, music and the evolution of culture across continents.

Finally the stage is taken by a fiercely passionate Spanish woman who, along with a Flamenco guitarist and singer, performs a traditional Latin dance of great power and beauty. Each of the three dances is linked by distinctive movements of the wrist and percussive elements made either by castanets or Indian ankle bells.

The journey is completed as the three dancers come together to bring this memorable performance to a close. They (including the musicians) fill the small performance space, taking it in turn to take centre stage, but with a running thread of grace, power and sensuality across their individual styles.

Even though this is an incredibly emotive and powerful show, I feel it would have been even more special in a bigger space and with a more elaborate set. India Flamenco is a wonderful fusion of cultures interpreted through music and dance, with a simple but powerful message. This is a low budget, simply presented work, produced and performed with obvious love for the medium and a beautiful synthesis of form.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 22 August)

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