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Merchants of Bollywood Coming to CFA Oct. 12

Dance and music show celebrates the history of Bollywood

By David Wedekindt

Release Date: September 16, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo Center for the Arts will present Merchants of Bollywood on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mainstage theatre in the Center for the Arts on the UB North Campus. The performance is sponsored in part by Triveni.

Called "the most exhilarating musical seen this year," by the Manchester Evening News, Bollywood, the Show is a nonstop whirl of color and music. A dance spectacular with more than 1,000 glittery costumes, 2,000 pieces of jewelry and the original music and choreography from the biggest Bollywood movies past and present, the show brings the true spirit of Bollywood to America. A sensation in Europe and Australia, this runaway hit is based on the true story of a famed family of choreographers who have dominated the Indian film industry for decades. A classic tale of the clash between generations ensues when a daughter breaks free of family tradition to create her own voice, finding love, heartbreak and independence along the way.

The story begins in the deserts of Rajasthan, India, in the temple of Shiva. The Merchant family dynasty holds the responsibility of upholding the ancient traditions of the Kathak dance, known as the dance of the Gods. Shantilal Merchant is the last in the line of gurus, and this tradition is about to die out. Shantilal was formerly a choreographer in the golden era of India's great film industry (Bollywood) while India was recovering from Partition.

Division in the country had ripped the hearts and souls of the people apart and Shantilal believed that Cinema could heal the wounds. Shantilal left when the industry grew commercial, lawless and influenced by Western trends and dirty money and started his own traditional folk dance school in the desert. His granddaughter, Ayesha, left Rajasthan against his wishes to become today's reigning queen of Bollywood film choreography. She is known as "The Princess of Romance."

Although they are family, their approach to film choreography could not be further apart. Shantilal believed that films should change people's lives. Ayesha believes film should help people escape. Ayesha's teenage rebellion against her classical training, in favor of modern Western dance styles, was the seed of their feud. The damage seems irreparable and Ayesha resolves to visit Shantilal to make peace. Her journey takes her to the heart of India -- the deserts of Rajasthan and into the arms of her childhood sweetheart Uday. Upon her arrival she learns that her grandfather is dying and there is no one left to continue the family tradition. Ayesha decides to marry Uday, and stay in Rajasthan to run her father's dance school and maintain the family traditions, but with a balance of old and new.

The finale of the show is colorful, thrilling, a high-energy fusion of folk, classical, modern, Western and Indian dance forms. Tears are shed, old wounds are healed and age-old conflict is reconciled in a powerful journey to the sacred heart of dance.

Tickets for Merchants of Bollywood are $36.50 general admission, $19.50 for students (any school). Tickets are available at the Center for the Arts Box Office from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and all Ticketmaster locations, including ticketmaster.com. To charge tickets call 1-800-745-3000; in Canada, call 416-870-8000. For group sales, call 716-645-6771. For more information call 716-645-2787.