As the synchronized jingle of a dozen anklets claimed center stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center last Saturday, I watched with giddy anticipation. There was something exhilarating about listening to the Bollywood tunes of my childhood—songs that often served as the overplayed soundtracks to family roadtrips and dinner parties—captivate an audience of nearly 2,300.
I was here to witness “Mystic India: The World Tour,” a series of high-octane dance performances that combined regional folk dancing, exuberant tributes to Hindu gods and lively renditions of Bollywood classics.
Helmed by Aatma Performing Arts, a New York and New Jersey-based dance company (they fuse traditional Indian dance styles with contemporary American influences) that regularly crisscrosses the globe, the two-hour show featured 60 dancers, a quartet of live musicians, aerialists and a kaleidoscopic array of costumes, including mirror-studded tunics, jewel-toned turbans, and metallic saris.
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For context’s sake, the performances were punctuated by bursts of spirited narration from a sherwani-clad emcee who prefaced each section, ranging from a recreation of the Indian spring festival of holi to a grand showcase depicting the relationship between a renowned Moghul emperor and his wife, with a lighthearted introduction. The result? A visually engaging—albeit, lightning-fast—history lesson, tracing India’s transition from ancient powerhouse to modern democracy.
While the show won’t be returning to NJPAC in the near future, it will be making several stops nationwide, in addition to gracing international destinations like South Africa, Bahrain and China, just to name a few. See here for a complete schedule.
Aarti Virani is an NYC-based travel writer and regular contributor to TravelandLeisure.com.