Over 2,200 people gathered at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis Saturday night to witness Bollywood-Fusion at its finest. Inspired by South Asian arts and culture, Bollywood-Fusion dancers also blend music and dance from other cultures into their performance. Hosted by the University of Minnesota's student organization Jazba Entertainment, nine collegiate dance teams competed for only one spot to move onto the national championship.
"I grew up as a dancer, so I had a special place in my heart for all things dance," said Hannah Marx, a senior biochemistry major and social director of Jazba Entertainment.
"I immediately liked the idea of a Bollywood-Fusion dance competition, and then learning about Women In Need and all of the people that they help helped me become even more passionate about the cause," Marx said.
A women's shelter and rehabilitation center in Nagpur, India, Women In Need works to rehabilitate the lives of impoverished women who have been victims of sexual assault or rape, and who may suffer from Leprosy, HIV/AIDS or mental illness. Prompted to make a change after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, Women In Need is Jazba Entertainment's non profit initiative.
"We were all really shocked and confused and wanted to help. Sexual assault is really big on campus here and we're all big advocates of trying to prevent it," said Shyamlee Nanda, the executive director of Jazba Entertainment. She was only a freshman when the student group first began four years ago.
"We felt useless not being able to do something from so far away. We all really love dancing and [want] to make a change, so we decided to make the competition and donate the proceeds to [Women In Need]," Nanda said.
Jazba Entertainment has seen steady growth in their profits throughout their four years, last year raising over $15,000 to donate to Women in Need.
"I was super impressed with how powerful [Jazba] was with the meaning behind the event," Jake Riley said.
A hip-hop dancer and owner of Minnesota's first and only studio dedicated to Hip Hop, Riley judged Jazba for the first time last year. Back again for Jazba 2018, he discussed what he would be looking for throughout the night's performances.
"I'm looking to see creativity, especially in transitions, and overall energy. I'm going to be looking at faces. Are you in it and are you feeling the music? Or are you still working out the choreography? This isn't practice anymore, this is the real thing," Riley said.
Bollywood-Fusion is unlike anything you've ever seen before. The fast pace, the sharp movements, the spinning, jumping and back-flipping mere inches away from other dancers on stage is outrageous and absolutely spectacular.
Many of the performances incorporated narratives involving conflicts and resolutions of family, love, loss and religion and required no less than five costume changes per dancer. Each and every team deserved to take home the 6-foot tall first place trophy, but only one could win.
In third place was "SLU Shakti" from St. Louis, Missouri, in second was "GT Qurbani" from Atlanta, Georgia and in first place was "UCLA Nashaa" from Los Angeles. The teams will go on to compete at Legends, the Bollywood Dance Championship on April 14th in San Rafael, California.