It’s Friday night at Kruti Dance Academy, a brightly painted studio in Norcross’s Global Mall. Work-weary parents watch, smiling, through a long window as their sons bounce and shimmy to Bollywood beats. Yes, it takes the hip-hop-esque moves popularized by Hindi cinema to bring in the boys. But it was the more traditional dance form of Bharat Natyam that recently brought Kruti national attention.
Dina Sheth (left) and daughter Shemoni Parekh
Fifteen years ago, Dina Sheth, a former microbiologist, started the academy in her basement with four students. Today her students number nearly 600, and the buzz hasn’t stopped since a team led by Sheth’s daughter, Shemoni Parekh, performed Bharat Natyam’s laser-precise postures and hastas, or hand gestures, on the latest season of America’s Got Talent. Parekh—a Georgia Tech grad who joined her mother full time as creative director in 2009—choreographed the energetic competition number. Judge Piers Morgan picked the troupe as his Wild Card, and the team of mostly high school girls in Technicolor costumes made it to national television and the final forty-eight acts. “He loved how we were showing America something different, that there’s more to Indian dance than just Bollywood,” says Parekh.
For many Kruti students, the dances have given them insight into the subcontinent culture of their parents or grandparents that they have yet to experience firsthand. “There are quite a few kids who have not been exposed to the [culture] as much who are like, ‘What am I doing here? This all looks very weird to me,’” says Sheth. “But once they get into it, they absolutely love it. It becomes a passion.”
Curious? Kruti stages an elaborate recital every spring at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Photograph by Kendrick Brinson