by Amanda Ong
Since 2016, Rangeela Dance Company has been the premier location for Bollywood fusion dance in Seattle. Rangeela, founded by Priyanka Jain Vora, teaches and offers Bollywood, BollyCardio, Bhangra, BollyHop, Urban Bollywood, Garba Funk, BollyContemp, and BollyClassical dance.
“I really wanted to create a platform for adult, post-collegiate dancers to come together and not necessarily compete, but create dance pieces together, create art together, share it with our community, teach dance workshops, teach our routines to adults and kids all over,” Vora said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “And then also perform around the community to celebrate our culture. Ultimately, my goal is to preserve our Indian culture and pass that on to the next generations. I really think that doing that through dance and art is a very powerful way to deliver that message.”
Vora is trained in the classical Indian dance Bharatanatyam, which she studied for 11 years in addition to other forms of Indian dance, like Bollywood, Garba, and folk. Once she reached college, she was captain of the Bollywood fusion dance team. There, she was exposed to other styles, like contemporary and modern. For many colleges, South Asian dance teams can be intensive about training and competitions. After moving from Boston to Seattle, she founded Rangeela as a way to really connect to the dance community and reach out to the specific population of post-collegiate dancers who might no longer know what place dance has in their lives.
Vora was studying physical therapy while teaching Bollywood cardio classes on the side and choreographing for events and weddings. “My personal goal was, after college, to keep dancing and figure out how to keep that in my life,” Vora said. “And then I realized that there must be other people like me, and that’s how I found my community in Seattle, other dancers who share that same passion. And then it just grew and grew and grew, and now we’re a pretty big organization.”
Since then, Rangeela has been featured in an exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry and performed at major corporate and nonprofit organization events, like Boeing, Microsoft, Zillow, Facebook, and API Chaya. Rangeela has also worked with and performed for the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Northwest Folklife Festival, where they performed this past Monday.
“Our most exciting corporate [event] was Boeing,” Vora said. “It was a grand opening for their new plane made by Boeing. And this is an Indian airline, so Boeing made that airline, that aircraft. And so we performed at the opening gala for that aircraft. It was pretty cool.”
Rangeela also has a thriving YouTube channel. During the pandemic, it began creating YouTube videos, like 15-minute Bollywood cardio and HIIT workouts, some of which have reached nearly a million views. Its connections on YouTube have also connected it with guest instructors from all over the world, including YouTube celebrity dancers as well as famous choreographers from Bollywood.
Vora’s passion about making Bollywood and Indian dance accessible is linked to her own strong connection to dance. “Dance … for me, personally, is a source of Vedic meditation,” Vora said. “When I dance or when I’m choreographing or directing a piece … it’s like I fully immerse myself into the art, which is just so exciting.”
Rangeela’s classes are mostly geared toward adults, but it also hosts classes for kids — like its upcoming summer workshop — and classes even geared toward elders. “I’m a physical therapist as well, so I’m a women’s health physical therapist, pelvic and women’s health,” Vora said. “So we designed a class for seniors.”
The Indian community of Seattle has provided major support for the Rangeela Dance Company community, though anyone is welcome to take classes at Rangeela, even if they have no Bollywood dance experience. Vora says that much of the Indian community she has met is split between recent immigrants and Indian Americans raised in the United States. “Regardless of our background, we’re all just equally passionate about celebrating our culture through dance,” Vora said of the community. “To see how similar we are, too, in wanting to preserve the culture and keep it going and sharing that with everyone, it’s just really rewarding, it really just puts a smile on our faces every day.”
Vora says Rangeela is lucky to have an incredibly strong team, working together to do marketing, choreography, sales, and run practices. Its dedicated and supportive team is like a family, and they are all extremely passionate about what they do, most juggling their work there with another full-time job. “They’re looking for a way to release, a way to get exercise, a way to learn, a way to connect with other people outside of work,” Vora said. “And I think this is a really important aspect of their well-being, for fitness, for happiness, for community, for social reasons. Some of my dancers need a dance family. … And we really welcome them with open arms.”
More than anything, as the only Bollywood-focused dance company in Seattle, Rangeela is offering a kind of cultural dance that is highly underrepresented in the Pacific Northwest. “We’re truly making a change in Seattle, where there really wasn’t a lot of high-quality Bollywood [and other South Asian] dance,” Vora said. “There wasn’t a lot of really strong and high-quality representation of where people could go to for choreography for their wedding or to take classes on a consistent basis and find those friends who also wanted to learn dance after college.”
To try dance classes at Rangeela Dance Company at 340 15th Ave. E. Suite 101, visit its website, or enroll your kids in its summer dance workshop series by contacting Rangeela over email.
This is one of a series of articles sponsored by the Seattle Office of Economic Development in recognition of Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.
📸 Featured Image: Rangeela Dance Company was founded in 2016 by Priyanka Jain Vora. (Photo: Amit Bhardwaj)
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