It’s a proud moment not just for hip- hop dance crew Desi Hoppers but dance lovers too. They have become the first ever Indian dance crew to compete on NBC’s dance reality show World of Dance season 2, which will go on air from May 29. The members — Shantanu Maheshwari, Macedon Dmello, Niraj Lama, Rohan Virus and Mohit Antony — earlier this year got a chance to showcase their dancing skills in front of Hollywood bigwigs like Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, Ne-yo and Jenna Dewan. They were judging the show, which was shot at Universal Studios, Los Angeles.
Palki Malhotra, founder, Desi Hoppers, says that the format of this dance reality show is a little different from others. “They select talent from across the world. They have certain divisions so there is a division for a group above five, duo, junior, etc. We were selected for the upper team which had five members or more. Each division has its set of rounds and a finalist. The finalists of all the divisions compete at the end of the show,” she explains.
In their division, Desi Hoppers competed with 13 other crews but Malhotra refuses to say if they made it to the finals. “We made it quite far and we scored the highest. We are under contract not to talk about it. I can only say that we participated via auditions; in fact, we had participated at the World of Dance ground event after which they asked us to send our video audition and then we got to participate in the show. It was a long procedure,” she adds.
Talking about the experience of being a part of the show, she says that it was fantastic. “It was very interesting because we got to watch different styles of dance and there was this different kind of unpredictability because we didn’t know what’s going to happen in the next round. It was not only fantastic but challenging too. We don’t know if we will get a similar experience in life. We were competing with world-class talent,” she explains.
The event was even more special for them because they were competing with groups who have inspired them. “There was Brotherhood, Bad Ass, Rug Heads and many others,” quips she.
Malhotra is happy with the positive response the crew received. “We couldn’t believe it was happening with us. They were very supportive of us despite being the underdogs. In fact, we got a standing ovation for our performance,” she says.
She says that their focus while rehearsing for their acts was to put India on the world map. “We were not focusing on making our crew popular or making contacts there. We had designed our acts very differently. We did not want to do the same thing that others were doing so that the judges would remember India,” says she adding that Desi Hoppers puts in a lot of Indian culture in their performances. “There is no denying that we are a hip-hop group but we blend in a lot of classical dance styles like Bharatanatyam and folk and Bollywood in our performances and we did that even there. However, we weren’t sure if they would understand what we were trying to do,” she says, adding, “Every crew was living up to their own standards but we were pushing beyond our strengths.”
But it wasn’t a smooth ride for the crew members, says Malhotra. “Two of our crew members were unable to join us. One had visa problem and the other had family issues. So we had to recruit two new members and make a six-member team. The new members took time to understand our style so we practised for 12 hours. We not only worked on our fitness but mental strength too,” she adds.
It was not just about performing at the show but the crew learnt a lot. “When you admire so many dancers and you have the best dancers around you, your mind needs to be calm. “We had to be balanced and focus on our act. Once on stage everybody was a competitor but off stage we were friends,” she says.
Malhotra says that they are now focusing on ‘celebration of dance’. “We are starting our dance classes from May 11 because we want to tell others that dance is not just about what they see on reality shows. People should understand and celebrate dance as an art,” she says before signing off.
The boys speak
Our crew is extremely proud to have got a chance to represent India at such a huge platform. All of us absolutely give credit to our mentor and the founder of the crew, Palki Malhotra, for supporting us through all those rigorous late night rehearsals before going off to LA, and showing so much faith and determination in each one of us. The entire experience of being on World of Dance and getting to showcase our dancing skills in front of such amazing talents like Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough, Ne-yo, Paula Abdul and Jenna Dewan was surreal for us. Our dance performances had a mix of our Indian culture and that of the West, and were highly appreciated by all of them.
— Shantanu Maheshwari, actor and crew member
It felt amazing to dance along and compete with some of the best crews in the world — the ones who have inspired us in our entire journey of dance. Dancing along with them and inspiring them in our own way was a dream come true for the entire crew. To perform and be judged by superstars like Ne-yo, Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough was an experience of a lifetime! They loved our style. Ne-yo even said that he will always remember Desi Hoppers no matter what, which will always be a very special comment for us.
— Macedon Dmello, crew member