From Ballet to Bollywood: What is Brown Badmaash?

Bright lights flash, gold sequins sparkle, white smiles beam into the clamorous, clapping, and cheering crowd. The act everyone had been looking forward to was finally onstage: Brown Badmaash Dance Company. The energy in the Salomon auditorium was palpable as the members performed their routine. After this dance during the Tamasha Culture Show hosted by SASA, I knew I had to find out more about this dance group.

Badmaash is an Indian fusion dance team that has been around for about ten years and does a large range of styles from Indian classical to hip hop. The whole team consists of about 30 members, 14 of whom are on the competition team that travels to compete against the teams of other universities. Last month, the team went to Columbia University for a competition showcase called Naach Nation, and they plan to go to Las Vegas in May for an even larger competition with rankings and prize money.

The members of Badmaash have vast and varied dance backgrounds. Some are classically trained in traditional Indian dance while others are trained in ballet, modern, or even breakdancing. Some have had no previous dance experience at all! Sarah Perumattam ’20, a member of both Badmaash and its competition team, said that, “If you have a good attitude and are able to pick up the choreo, then it’s definitely worth auditioning,” and that many people audition just for fun, too, to learn some new dance moves and meet some new people. Although the auditions for this year are already over, the group holds auditions every semester to look for new dancers. So be sure to try out in the fall!

But be warned—Badmaash does not play around. Depending on how many routines they sign up to learn, dancers can have anywhere from 4 to 10 hours of rehearsal every week, on top of all the other things that these ambitious and hardworking students are committed to! Not to mention, the competition team takes it to a whole other level of dedication, with members flying back three days early from winter break to have a boot camp of straight dance rehearsal and training before classes started again. Especially right before competitions or around the time of the annual spring show, the time commitment required of Badmaash dancers can get rather demanding.

But Sarah definitely thinks that being a part of Badmaash is worth the sore muscles, late nights, and aching feet. This dance team promotes diversity not only in its celebration of traditional Indian culture but also in its integration of many different styles and people. They combine ancient art forms with popular songs on the radio, Latin dance with Bollywood style, lyrical with salsa, and collaborate with other dance groups like Fusion or Impulse. Badmaash is a good “way to stay in touch with the Indian culture I grew up with in a great community of people” and a good way to get other people interested in Indian culture and dance, either by joining the group or attending the shows. Sarah believes that “the more range of styles that we have access to, the more people we have from different backgrounds, the cooler things we can do.” This collaborative, dynamic medley of a team has a vision—both for a diverse dance family and for a diverse college community.

When I asked Sarah what her favorite part about being in Badmaash is, she explained that it is not only her love for dance but also her love for the people and how “it really is a family.” She has had the opportunity to meet and become good friends with more upperclassmen through Badmaash, and she showed just how close-knit and caring of a community this group is when she said, “I don’t know what we’ll do next year. We’ll miss our seniors for sure; that is true.”

Although Badmaash’s performances at the Fall Dance Concert and SASA’s Tamasha Cultural Show have already passed, their spring showcase is coming up on April 22! Every year, their show either sells out or nearly does, so I recommend getting a pre-sale ticket to ensure a first-hand experience of this amazing dance group. The Bollywood routine they performed at the SASA show had a storyline and a cliffhanger, and that story will be completed with the two other sections at the annual spring show, where Sarah assured me that “it’ll be fun. It’ll all come together.” I believe this is the most remarkable power of Badmaash: the ability to make dance styles, cultures, and people come together.

Photos by Ani Mack



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