Bollywood dance breaks down barriers in Austin

It’s become an annual summer event in Austin: Bollywood Day, a festival that celebrates South Asian culture with Indian food, music and lots of Bollywood dance. The event was started by Prakash Mohandas, owner of the Agni Dance Company. It’s inspiring to see so many people from so many backgrounds participate, he said. “The energy of that many people coming together is something else.”

Mohandas named his dance company Agni, which is the Sanskrit word for fire.  Mohandas says that that elemental, all-consuming raw energy is a good description of his approach to choreography and arts education.

Mohandas grew up in India, studying all kinds of dance, including jazz and hip-hop. Bollywood dance is any kind of movement done to Bollywood film music, he said. Usually it’s very energetic and colorful. And while most Americans may not have seen any Bollywood films, they’ve definitely seen influences in performances by Beyonce, Madonna and Gwen Stefani.

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Calling himself a “global citizen,” Mohandas says the goal of his dance company is to foster understanding between people and cultures. “If people are able to come dance with each other and have fun with each other, that breaks down the barriers.”

Video produced by Joe Rocha and Eve Tarlo, camera by Juan Izaguirre, edited by Joe Rocha. This report originally appeared on PBS member station KLRU. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.