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Blue 13 Dance turns cultural stereotypes on its head

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am

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Ghungroos & Whistles
Blue 13 Dance
Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival
May 27 to 31
CN Stage (St. Albert Curling Club)
Tickets: $10. Call Arden Theatre box office at 780-459-1542 or purchase online at

In just a little over three weeks, the Northern Albert International Children’s Festival will hunker down by St. Albert’s Sturgeon River – an explosion of colour, crazy creatures and lots of children’s high-pitched laughter.

One of the most animated and rainbow hued main stage shows promises to be Ghungroos & Whistles, a series of exciting dance pieces that draws theatergoers to the Indian subcontinent.

The Los Angeles based Blue 13 Dance blends a Bollywood-tech style combined with the rhythmic hypnotic movements of India’s classical footwork. It remains true to its origins while pushing the envelope with a modern edge.

Artistic director Achinta McDaniel adds verve and spectacle by incorporating numerous North American dance styles into her stage shows ranging from jazz, Latino and hip hop to ballet and modern.

Blue 13’s mission is to get rid of cultural stereotypes by linking different communities through the cross-genre performances.

“I celebrate the gift of dance with a diverse ensemble of dancers. I look for talent and skill, not nationality. We look different from the outside, but we dance as one,” says McDaniel.

She is a first generation American born of Punjabi parents. Growing up in New York and Cleveland as a “bi-cultural product”, McDaniel studied only modern dance. However, after college, she flew to India to study Kathak for six months.

“I fell in love with it. The musicality changed the feel and rhythm beneath my feet.”

After returning to New York in 1999, McDaniel started a four-person collective naming it Blue 13 Dance after her favourite colour.

“Since I was born, I’ve been obsessed with blue – blue bindi (forehead dot), blue bangles, blue bedroom, blue clothes,” she laughs.

By 2011 the company moved to Los Angeles where their rebellious and unconventional style of dance was received with standing ovations.

As regular features at the Hollywood Ford Amphitheatre, the incubator allows them to continue exploring technique and collaborating with different performers and choreographers.

To date the company of 25 has produced five large theatrical extravaganzas that range from fantastical dream-like sequences to poking tongue-in-cheek fun at traditional taboos such as kissing before marriage.

Ghungroos & Whistles, a parody of bells and whistles, will be presented at the children’s festival as part of the company’s outreach program. McDaniel describes the show as a 45-minute series of energetic folk styles blended with modern twists and turns.

“It’s such a mashup of different styles reflective of the subcontinent. It’s full of emotion and energy and we want to show the spectacle of the Bollywood.”

“We are contemporary Indian dance theatre – a mad brand of Indian dance. It’s not your mama’s Bollywood. It’s a fun, powerful treat.”


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