When India underwent its COVID crisis a couple months back, many of us might’ve wanted to help but thought we couldn’t do anything from the other side of the globe. But a local dance company didn’t let the 8,000-mile distance stop them from helping. With the community’s support, they raised over $4,000 in donations in less than a month.
The company, Dance Bollywood Fusion & Fitness (Dance BFF), works to spread awareness of Indian dance and culture, offering Indian/Bollywood dance lessons to Rhode Islanders of all ages.
Co-founders Rupa Datta and Rutuja Patil – both of whom have family in India – felt compelled to help the COVID situation in India to the best of their ability.
“We are here, but our families and friends are there [in India],” said Patil. “…We both were worried and thought maybe we should do something, something small [and] in our capacity.”
As part of the fundraiser, Datta and Patil did an hour-long virtual event in which they led dances for the attendees to follow. Though event registration was just $10, many donated extra for the cause.
Due to the company’s small size, Datta and Patil anticipated raising a few hundred dollars. To their surprise, donations reached $3,000 before the event had even begun. And people continued to donate days after the event took place.
All funds went to Kent Hospital’s India COVID Crisis Relief Effort. That initiative collected a total of $1.4 million from organizations across Rhode Island and sent forward four planeloads of aid and supplies.
Datta and Patil were so pleased with the turnout that they held a second dance event free of charge, about a month later.
Before the pandemic, the company was doing multiple performances across Rhode Island and the Greater Boston area. And though classes are not likely to be held in person until later this fall, Dance BFF expects to perform at the PVDFest this September.
Dance BFF was founded in 2016, after the two co-founders realized many Rhode Island residents were eager to learn more about Indian dance.
“It basically became a mission for us — for Rutuja and I — to make people in Rhode Island fall in love with Bollywood,” said Datta.
The company’s first official performance was at West Warwick High School in 2017. It involved 80 dancers and attracted an audience of about 700.
“It was basically the first Bollywood show in Rhode Island,” Datta said of the performance.
One unique aspect of the dance business is the diversity of its performers. For most classes, no prior experience with Indian dance is necessary. That means most dance students are beginners, and many don’t have any South Asian background.
Though the company doesn’t have its own studio, Datta and Patil have been renting spaces in West Warwick, Providence, and North Attleboro to reach both Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts residents.
If you’re interested in learning more about Dance BFF, you can find the website HERE.
Aiza Shaikh, a newly minted EGHS alum (Class of 2021), has been an EG resident since 2008. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.