When India suffered its COVID crisis a few months ago, many of us might have wanted to help but thought there was nothing we could do on the other side of the globe. But a local dance company didn’t let the 8,000 mile distance stop them from helping out. With the support of the community, they raised over $4,000 in donations in less than a month.
The company, Bollywood Fusion Dance & Fitness (Dance BFF), works to raise awareness of Indian dance and culture, offering Indian/Bollywood dance lessons to Rhode Islanders of all ages.
Co-founders Rupa Datta and Rutuja Patil – who both have family in India – felt compelled to help the COVID situation in India to the best of their abilities.
“We are here, but our families and friends are here [in India]”, Patil said. “…We were both worried and thought maybe we should do something, something small [and] in our capacity.
As part of the fundraiser, Datta and Patil hosted a one-hour virtual event where they led dances for attendees to follow. Although registration for the event was only $10, many made additional donations to the cause.
Due to the small size of the business, Datta and Patil planned to raise a few hundred dollars. To their surprise, donations reached $3,000 before the event even started. And people continued to donate days after the event.
All funds went to Kent Hospital’s COVID crisis relief effort in India. This initiative raised a total of $1.4 million from Rhode Island organizations and sent four planes full of aid and supplies.
Datta and Patil were so pleased with the turnout that they held a second dance event for free about a month later.
Prior to the pandemic, the company was doing several performances across Rhode Island and the Greater Boston area. And while classes likely won’t take place in person until late fall, Dance BFF plans to perform at PVDFest in September.
Dance BFF was founded in 2016, after the two co-founders realized that many Rhode Islanders were eager to learn more about Indian dance.
“It basically became a mission for us – for Rutuja and me – to make people in Rhode Island fall in love with Bollywood,” Datta said.
The company’s first official performance was at West Warwick High School in 2017. It involved 80 dancers and attracted an audience of around 700.
“It was basically Bollywood’s first show in Rhode Island,” Datta said of the performance.
A unique aspect of the dance industry is the diversity of its performers. For most classes, no previous Indian dance experience is necessary. This means that most dance students are beginners and many have no South Asian background.
Although the company did not have its own studio, Datta and Patil rented space in West Warwick, Providence, and North Attleboro to reach residents of both Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts.
If you want to know more about Dance BFF, you can find the website HERE.
Aiza Sheikh, a newly minted EGHS alumna (Class of 2021), has been an EG resident since 2008. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating ice cream at the cafe.
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