On Sunday an event several months in the making came together at the Tekra (slum) across the street from the Gandhi Ashram where Manav Sadhna runs many of its programs. Havikoro, a Houston, Texas-based hip hop dance group, visited the Tekra to demonstrate their art and teach some moves.
The event was brainchilded by our very own Nimo in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy's American Center. Havikoro, which consists of seven guys, came to the Tekra, mingled with the community, then held a teaching and demonstration workshop in the MS community center and later at Gandhi Ashram. At the community center they had groups of kids come up on stage and taught different hip-hop dance routines, intermixed with their own performances. They taught hip hop, break, b-boy, and house routines with different members leading the dance form they specialize in. One of the group's members, Heaven, is a beatbox artist, and dazzled the crowd with his incredible talent.
One thing that stood out for me was that the kids barely knew a word of English, but they were still able to learn the dances really well. It speaks to the intelligence of the Tekra kids and the expressiveness and patience of the Havikoro members, but also I felt it reflects the universal language of dance and performance.
Other thing that stood out about the event was the mutual learning that was going on. The local kids clearly got a treat and exposure to a different culture. But the Havikoro members were getting so much out of the experience themselves. At least a few of them had never been to India, let alone a slum, so the openness and enthusiasm they showed was commendable. Later Nimo told me that after giving a tour of the Gandhi Ashram and explaining some of the work that was going on there, they were all so moved. Couple even said they wanted to come back and volunteer, and Nimo has his eye on one to be a mentor for an aspiring dancer from the Tekra. As Nimo talked about how rocked the group was I could sense that this was his success metric for the event.
Hats off to the guy for pulling off something special. It was seemingly simple but logistically so intricate, and Nimo made it look easy. It was executed beautifully and the experience came off powerful for all people involved. After Havikoro had finished their workshop and left the Tekra, Anupam Kher, a famous Bollywood actor who happened to be in town, stopped by to visit the Tekra. Poor guy was mobbed endlessly for the 15 minutes he was in the community center, barely getting a good word in or even room to breathe. After one round around the stage, he was still unable to get separation from the crowd, so he left just as quick as he came. Later I asked Nimo which he thought the Tekra kids valued more, Havikoro's in-depth program or Anupam Kher's whirlwind visit. If they were given the choice to invite back one or the other, which would they choose? Nimo was adamant that the kids see the value in quality interaction, that although the Tekra (like any other community in India) is irrationally starstruck, they recognize and appreciate real connection.
I was anticipating this event ever since I got to India over a month ago, when Nimo first told me about it. I was anxious to see how kids here would react to a deeply rooted part of my own culture and childhood. Not surprisingly, the kids took it all in with open minds and hearts. They found the joy, the optimism in hip hop which Havikoro so vibrantly bears. Speaks to the power of music and dance as a universal language. Below is a short photo diary from the day. Anjoy!
UPDATE: The event got a bit of press.