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HOLLYWOOD DANCING TWINS - VEENA & NEENA BIDASHA
by Padma Chebrolu, OH, USA
e-mail: padma@culturalcentreofindia.com


Apr 2002

Born in northern California into an immigrant Punjabi family, identical twins, Veena and Neena Bidasha, are creating waves in Hollywood. They have learnt many international styles of dancing including Indian and using that experience to create their own style of entertainment to the celebrities and masses. They perform worldwide, offer classes and produce videos. That is not all. Soon, they will be opening up their own clothing line, in the Hollywood style.

Veena and Neena are not only talented and glamorous, they are running a business as a corporation with their constant innovation of their art style as professionals and stealing the hearts of millions of fans. Veena and Neena faced criticism and the uncertainty of show business in the beginning. Now that is past, these amazing dancers are the most well recognized dancers in their style of dancing.
Veena Bidasha is a recipient of several acting, singing and dancing scholarships and awards, local and national. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in theater and voice and is a graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts degree program at University of California at Los Angeles. Aside from studying dances in Egypt and in India, she has studied Mexican Folk dance and Spanish at the university in Michúcan, Mexico. She speaks Hindi, Spanish, and is fluent in sign language.
Neena Bidasha received a double Bachelors degree in Journalism and Business, and graduated with academic awards, scholarships and fellowships. As a performer, Neena had studied Western and Eastern classical singing, Indian classical music and acting. Well schooled in dance also, she has studied ballet, jazz, Indian, and Middle Eastern dance.
Padma: When did you start dancing and what kind of training did you go thorough? Did you go through Classical Indian dance training?
Veena & Neena: We grew up with bhangra dancing, because we're Punjabis. When we were little, we would put on shows for our family and friends all the time. It wasn't until later on when we started taking dance lessons - probably every kind that exists - many years of belly dancing, ballet, Bharata Natyam - but also, hip hop, Kathak, Flamenco, and even some Mohiniattam, and Odissi. We were naturals at anything related to movement.
Padma: Do your audiences prefer belly dancing or Indian dancing?
Veena & Neena: Some audience like belly dancing, and others prefer Indian dance. Many tell us they can't decide - and like both.

Padma: What are the main differences in the dance techniques in belly dance vs. Indian dance?
Veena & Neena: The differences in the techniques in Indian dance and belly dance will depend on the style of Indian dance. There are many different styles of dances in India. Unlike belly dance, all Indian classical and some folk dancers require wearing ghungroos or bells on their feet or even knees.
Rajasthani style - both classical (Kathak) and folk is probably the closest to belly dancing. Classical because of the arms, and folk (gypsy) because of the hip movements. Bharata Natyam, as well as other southern style classical dances, is completely opposite. The dancers dance in half sitting position (ardi-mundi), strong arms, flexed hands, and exaggerated facial expressions (abhinaya).
Padma: How do you feel about being so popular with your videos, performances and classes in California and around the world?
Veena & Neena: We never thought we were popular until other celebrities told us we were - Steven Tyler and Ricki Martin. We are very happy that people love our videos and classes, and that we receive so many emails from many people from all over the world. We answer everyone - sometimes it takes awhile.

Padma: You have worked on several music videos with different celebrities. Can you tell us about it?
Veena & Neena: We've worked with so many great artists on music videos - Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre, Outkast, Depeche Mode, Tom Petty, -- these are only a few of the music videos we've danced on, not including TV, films, stage shows. We've also danced at many celebrity events - U2, Eddie Murphy, Hugh Hefner, former Prime Minister of India, etc. Each was a great and unique experience. Some of our favorites were when we recently performed at Sting's home, and at Ozzy Osbourne's 50th birthday bash. What fun! Many celebrities.

Padma: What advice do you have for Indian dancers to be successful in their careers?
Veena & Neena: Go after your dream! This applies to any career. It takes a lot of hard work, but the pay off is worth it.

Padma: How do you maintain the balance between commercial success and the artistic side of your career?
Veena & Neena: It's hard to maintain a balance between artistic and non-artistic. But in the arts, as well as any profession, one must also learn to be a good business person - this is a business. Just like a doctor or lawyer, or engineer have their business(es), so do we. We treat it like one. Although it is a business we enjoy doing, it isn't a "hobby." And just like a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, it took many years of training to achieve the skills - in fact, even more years than most professions.
Padma: Most immigrant Indian parents want their children to learn their culture though music and dance. As you grew up in US, you must have seen where it worked and where it did not work. What do you think parents can do to encourage their children to be in touch with their roots?
Veena & Neena: I think any opportunity where parents can encourage their children to stay in touch with their roots is good, whether it's through music, dance, or basket weaving - more important - anything the children will feel connected with themselves. We should be proud we're Indians - there is a lot of richness in our history and culture.

Padma: What kind advice do you have for the dance teachers in US to spark their students' interest in Indian dance?
Veena & Neena: Encouraging is always a great tool to be successful with all students - especially kids. Children can be very affected in their later years by teachers and parents.

Padma: What is your favorite style of dancing, regardless of whether you learned it or performed it? Why?
Veena & Neena: We happen to like most styles - many of them Indian and Middle Eastern because we love the music so much. Many others we've either taken classes in or practiced - salsa, flamenco, hip-hop... almost anything with movement!

Padma: You have accomplished a lot at a very young age. What is next in your dance career?
Veena & Neena: Our own TV show, more videos. We're currently opening our own clothing line, which will be out in a few months.

Veena and Neena Bidasha can be contacted at bellytwins@veenaandneena.com and more information can be found on their website: http://bellytwins.com

Padma Chebrolu is the artistic director for Cultural Centre of India. She performs, teaches, writes, and produces videos related to dances of India.
e-mail: padma@culturalcentreofindia.com.
You can visit the web site at http://www.culturalcentreofindia.com.