What began with American Idol mania has become a genre unto itself: dancing and/or singing competitions cum reality television shows.
The latest in the long line of such programmes, Superstars of Dance, debuted last night in the US, following weeks of anticipation. Unlike some of the unspectacular reality television we've been force-fed lately, Superstars of Dance has proper pedigree: it's the brainchild of American Idol creator Simon Fuller and former Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe.
Plus, it's hosted by Michael Flatley of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance fame, one of the world's most accomplished and well-known dancers. Miss USA 2003 Susie Castillo is his co-host.
The show's formula is simple: take the top dancers from eight countries all over the globe and have them compete in solo, duet and group categories. Each representative country sends a team, a coach and a judge (who won't score for his or her home team to ensure fairness). The participating countries are Argentina, India, Australia, South Africa, the United States, Ireland, Russia, and China. Yep, India!
Nakul Dev Mahajan, who runs an Indian dance company in the US, coaches team India. The Indian judge, meanwhile, is Shirish Dayal, a producer, director and choreographer. The rest of the team includes a Bharantanyam dancer, a Kathak dancer, a duo dancing Bollywood style duo and a group performing Punjabi Bhangra.
On last night's episode, three Indians danced. Interestingly, they're all from California. First, Nishi Munshi (former Miss India-California) and Sangita Sanyal did a classic Bollywood number. They could only muster a score of 51 out of a possible 70. When host Flatley asked the South African judge why he gave the girls a six out of 10, he commented that he'd seen much better Bollywood dancers in his day. Their performance had India wallowing in last place!
Then, actor-dancer Amrapali Ambegaokar resurrected India's chances by scoring an impressive 62 out of 70 in her solo dance routine, putting the country in seventh position. Next week, the Bhangra group number!
Each country gave two performances last night. The scores right now:
United States: 114
South Africa: 112