Dancers wanted for flash-mob umbrella dance at Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Shiamak Vancouver Dance Team instructors

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Executive Director Linda Poole (second from right) is flanked by Shiamak Vancouver Dance Team instructors Sukhmani Singh, Rohan D’Silva, and Suragini Ravindran. Submitted photo

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

The Bollywood hype is growing in Vancouver.

And there’s a chance to learn the vibrant steps: Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF) is starting rehearsals in February for its pop-art umbrella dance, choreographed by world-renowned choreographer Shiamak Davar.

“Now with B.C. or Vancouver being so Bollywood what an opportunity for people to actually dance (Davar’s) steps,” said VCBF Executive Director Linda Poole. “I think we’re going to be hearing a lot about him.”

The umbrella dance is returning to the festival for its second year in a row, led by the local Shiamak Davar dance team (who also performed at the Times of India Film Awards announcement Tuesday).

“He choreographed it, but then he turns it over to his team here,” said Poole.

VCBF is currently looking for dancers and participants for the performance, which takes place flash-mob style at the Vancouver Art Gallery April 14. The first of 10 rehearsals starts Feb. 26 at False Creek Community Centre.

“The dance is not easy,” said Poole. “(Ten rehearsals) sounds like a lot, (but) they’re so much fun.”

Last year, about 550 people danced in the performance and Poole hopes to go above and beyond that this April.

In 2012 they danced to Davar’s hit “Zoobi Doobi.”

“They were thrilled that I didn’t take ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ or something, but I took one of their songs,” said Poole.

So this year, she went with Davar’s latest single, “Shabop.”

“It means to dance without worry and celebrate life, so I thought, ‘Oh my god, how can you top that?’” said Poole. “People are loving the song.”

Poole founded the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival in 2006 to honour the more than 40,000 ornamental cherry trees gifted from Japan in the 1930s.

“I find the cherry tree so inspiring,” she said. “And it’s such a phenomenon when they start to bloom.”

The festival uses their spring bloom to uplift spirits in the city and inspire arts and culture.

“We celebrate the return of spring — it’s like we’ve been hibernating all winter and it’s the first time we come out from under our umbrellas, hopefully, and we look up because they demand our attention,” said Poole. “The premise then — and it came true — is that it would inspire new poetry, new art … and it all happened.”

The only negative to the festival is the Vancouver rain, “so we thought: umbrellas,” said Poole.

And instead of just selling them as a fundraiser, she decided to “activate it” with the umbrella dance.

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off April 4 with Cherry Jam at Burrard Skytrain Station and events run across the city until April 30.

The umbrellas can be purchased for $24.99 at www.vcbf.ca, which includes the ten rehearsals leading up to the April 14 performance.

“(The dance is) very multicultural, even the participants — what a cross-section,” said Poole. “But, you know, that’s Vancouver.”

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