If you’ve ever wanted a chance to dance alongside the best in New York City, now’s your chance.
Broadway dancers unite with FoodTank—a non-profit dedicated to environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways to alleviate hunger, obesity, and poverty— to create a new high-energy theatrical workout series known as Garjana, from the Hindi word for "roar." (And you can experience their next event for free.)
“I want to get people dancing again, like I’d done as a child,” says Bernard Pollack, chairman of the board of FoodTank and creator of Garjana. He brought on artistic director Kevin Arbouet who, in turn, reached out to Broadway’s Monica Kapoor to choreograph the workout. Dance techniques have infiltrated the fitness scene, from Zumba to barre to Pilates, but Garjana wants to do something different.
“We didn’t want to replicate a dance workout you’d experience at a gym,” Pollack explains. “We stage our events in the round and we run performances out of large nightclubs with hundreds of people dancing alongside you.”
“We are really hoping to bridge the gap between dance fitness and theatre,” continues Kapoor, whose credits include the national tour of Bombay Dreams, television’s Smash, and seven years in Broadway’s Mamma Mia!. Kapoor choreographs a workout to original music—the upcoming event on September 14 will feature 12 new songs. Broadway performers Halle Morse (Mamma Mia!), Stanley Martin (Aladdin), Monette McKay (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Albert Guerzon (upcoming Margaritaville), and Deanne Aquinaga (national tour Wicked) will scatter throughout the crowd to demonstrate the moves and create a collective energy.
“Each song takes you on a journey,” says Kapoor. “We also use stage makeup and costumes to make the experience more theatrical and unique.”
“It’s a giant celebration,” says Pollack of the atmosphere. “Our music is empowering and totally original, we use amazing video and props—like glow-in-the-dark drumsticks—the steps are totally unique, a killer workout, but accessible and challenging to all levels.”
The first “happy hour” six months ago sold out Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom and 100 percent of the revenue supported local sustainable food initiatives like City Harvest, Harlem Grown, Green Bronx Machine, and GrowNYC. The September 14 event in Washington Square Park will also include surprise performances before the workout and free healthy goodies (it is “happy hour” after all).
Pollack says this is the beginning of a larger Garjana movement. “Our goal is to put 25,000 people through Garjana events in the next year,” he says. “Dance builds community, it fosters creativity.” In New York City, Garjana will take on a residency at the Union Square Ballroom with regular events. What’s more, Pollack revealed plans for an Off-Broadway experiential theatre engagement. “We’ve begun work on a fully immersive 90-minute musical version of Garjana slated for Off-Broadway late next year where audience members are full participants in the story.”