DID YOU KNOW? Highlighting the Activities of Artists/Organizations in Our Region

By In Dance

November 1, 2013, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

FOUNDER & ARTISTIC DIRECTOR Mona Khan formed the Mona Khan Company in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009. Khan has trained in Bharatnatyam for nine years and went on to explore global dance forms like Jazz, Hip Hop and Contemporary. Leading Bollywood choreographers like Farah Khan, Bosco Ceasar, Ganesh Hedge and many others spotted her talent. Her athletic moves, abundant energy and optimistic attitude soon made her a favorite in Mumbai’s entertainment industry. Continuing her dancing journey, she worked with various celebrities in Bollywood. Khan’s vision to create an organization that would be able spread the universal language of dance, as well as the quest for creativity, led her to develop the first structured Bollywood Dance program at the India Community Center in Milpitas. Khan’s work has led her to create a variety of unique programs and services that include a Bollywood Aerobics program, the Jollywood dance group for senior citizens and the founding of, Naach Inc., a Bollywood Dance company.

A large group of Bollywood dancers on stage
Pictured: Mona Khan Company
Photo by Rob Fadtke, ZoARt Photography

How would you describe what your activities and programs are?
The Mona Khan Company is the largest Bollywood Dance Company in the Bay Area. We have three areas of focus:
1) Dance Classes:
• We offer classes in several Bay Area locations for kids (ages three & up), teens and adults.
• A highly specialized ‘Emerging Performers’ training program focused on performance for student dancers who display exceptional skills.
• Community outreach classes including free classes for senior citizens (who named themselves ‘Jollywood’!) and for children with developmental disabilities at Jeena, a local non-profit organization. (jeena.org)

2) Shows:
• We put on two large productions each year that showcase all our students, instructors and company dancers. The show is called “America’s Got Bollywood” and in each showcase we put about 1,000 performers on stage (spread across three shows in a single day in a 1,500 capacity auditorium!)
• Our professional troupe of company dancers performs at external events, and some highlights from our repertoire of almost a hundred performances include: two seasons at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival (2010 & 2013), an NBA half-time event and the Indiaspora Inaugural Ball in Honor of President Obama in Washington D.C. We made it to the Top 48 in Season 5 on America’s Got Talent (television show). We have also performed with Bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and toured with the Bollywood singer, Shaan.

3)Bombay Jam®
Dance Fitness: the fitness industry’s first packaged and nationally accredited Bollywood fitness program! Bombay Jam® is a total body workout full of authentic Bollywood flavor. We currently offer instructor certifications and training in the Bay Area.

What’s the Jollywood program?
The Jollywood program is our group of senior citizens who learn Bollywood Dance and perform at our bi-annual showcases and at various events in the Bay Area. They are truly dear to our hearts and inspire us with their spirit and zest for life.

How many people are apart of the Mona Khan Company? Tell us about them.
A 13-person strong team manages the company, 35 dance instructors and 60 professional dancers or dancers in training. A huge variety of backgrounds and professions makes the company an interesting melting pot: people who work at the company full-time to those who have corporate jobs but dance or teach part-time, as well as college and high school students.

Is there anything unusual or unique about the work you do?
We redefine Bollywood by combining traditional elements with elements of Jazz, Contemporary and Hip Hop to create a unique fusion. The idea is to combine Indian Pop Culture with Western culture. This blend of the East and the West is truly exciting and allows for endless amounts of creativity. Bollywood music is very global with distinct sounds of Hip Hop, Pop, Latin Music, Jazz, Rock and more, so it allows us to easily integrate Western styles into the Bollywood framework. We like to push the limits of what Bollywood can be.

If no one knew anything about your company, what would you want them to know?
We truly believe in the power of dance and believe that everyone should dance irrespective of age, class, sex, economic background, race, ability or sexual orientation. Bollywood Dance is addictive and we want to spread the joy and energy that it brings to our lives.

What is rewarding about your work?
Teaching a student their first dance step, watching them progress and shine on stage. Watching kids become more confident, watching the senior citizens inspire others, watching a child with developmental disabilities excited by his or her sequined costume. Watching ideas come to life on the stage and moving people through the power of art.

Do you have a favorite performance or memorable moment with the company?
Our very first show which was with an A-list actor who is also known as the ‘King of Bollywood,’ Shah Rukh Khan. It was incredibly special as we were asked to perform for this event within a few weeks of the company having been formed. Shah Rukh Khan was so excited by our performance that he joined us on stage and we had a chance to actually freestyle and dance with him!

What are you looking forward to this fall?
We have several shows lined up but the most special event is our Fall Showcase: “America’s Got Bollywood” on Sun, Nov 17. Our showcases are the time we can really explore our creativity and experiment with new styles and ideas, so definitely looking forward to that. Since this is our own platform and we aren’t working with external client requirements – there are no boundaries to creativity.

“America’s Got Bollywood” is a three-show extravaganza on Sun, Nov 17. Find out more about Mona Khan Company and their upcoming performances at monakhancompany.com

This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of In Dance.

In Dance is a publication of Dancers' Group.