Mystic India’s World Tour dances into Dayton

Photo: Mysitc India shows captivating traditonal Bollywood colors and music

By Gary Spencer

In 2004, an IMAX film was released entitled “Mystic India” about India’s culture, people, and traditions as told through the 12,000 km barefoot journey throughout 18th century India. While it’s no feature film and no walking involved, Mystic India: The World Tour is an onstage extravaganza that explores Indian culture, people, and traditions of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat as told through dance, fire, music, costume, elaborate sets, stunts, and special effects. Created by Director and Choreographer Amit Shah and starring the AATMA Performing Arts dance company, Mystic India: The World Tour was born in 2011 and has since been seen in countries such as South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, Bahrain, China, and the United States to a bevy of critical accolades. At last, the show that proclaims itself “Mumbai Meets New York” is making its way to the Gem City and the buzz is rightfully palpable. I spoke to Mystic India creator Amit Shah about his grand production and tour, and what attendees can expect from this world-renowned show.

In summary and in your own words, what is the Mystic India show all about?

Amit Shah: The World Tour is a Bollywood dance spectacular that takes audiences on a journey through India’s progression from ancient to modern India. The show features music from the many eras of Hindi cinema [such as] Bollywood and also combines elements of folk and classical dance. Through dance, visual storytelling, and narratives, Mystic India focuses on depicting stories of legends of Indian history, the multiple regions of India which gave way to many folk and classical dance styles, and the ever-popular dance and music of the Bollywood film industry, which is now celebrated all over the world.

For our readers who might not be particularly familiar, what exactly is “Bollywood” and what has been its cultural impact in India and appeal around the world?

AS: Bollywood is a term for the film industry in India, which has been around for over 100 years. The music of Bollywood is quite dynamic as it incorporates both eastern and western influences. The main factor for its appeal throughout India is the affordability of cinema in the country. With the vast economic gap that is found in India, this factor has allowed film to become an art form for the people, not just for the upper class. It initially gained global popularity because Indians have migrated all over the world and brought their art forms to the general population. It’s also due to the fact that people just love musicals, and Bollywood has a way of making you smile no matter what language you speak.

What kind(s) of music can we expect to hear at Mystic India? And how does the music fit with the dancing and show in general?

AS: Mystic India incorporates music from many generations of Indian cinema. In modern day, Bollywood music has evolved to include sounds heard all over the world. The show is very progressive, and we definitely use the best of both the traditional and modern sounds heard in India today. We’ve also made a custom soundtrack for the show, which will be heard throughout the show as we tell our stories. People love the idea of the east/west balance, and we are excited to bring that on stage in a very theatrical way.

I also read that Mystic India will feature an array of lavish costumes. What can you tell me about that?

AS: There are over 750 costumes within the 90-minute show. The magnitude of elaborate costumes adds such a visual appeal to the show. Traditionally, clothing also varies from region to region within India. As the dance styles change, so do the costumes. You’ll see an overwhelming mix of colors, fabrics, textiles, and patterns that we have custom made in our own factory in India. The costume changes are one of the most difficult elements of the show to achieve, and what happens backstage is like magic and I am in awe of how quickly the dancers get in and out of each look.

Mystic India: The World Tour has been seen by over half a million people. To what do you attribute the appeal and success of Mystic India with a vast array of audiences across the globe? 

AS: Mystic India is a show for all audiences—those who have migrated from India, those of Indian descent who want to experience their culture on stage, and even more for those who have little or no knowledge of India or have never seen anything like this before. Our goal is to have you experience all that Indian music and dance has to offer. There are absolutely no racial or language barriers to the show, and what we want people to walk away with is the idea that the globe is united. People are interested in the show because they don’t get to see this type of musical and performance range in one performance. We’ve been lucky enough to take the show over four continents, and I’m truly lucky to have this platform to share my love for Indian culture around the world.

Mystic India: The World Tour takes place on Thursday, Oct. 26 at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center’s Mead Theatre, 1 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-60 in advance. For more information, please visit VictoriaTheatre.com/shows/mystic-india/

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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