A formidable panel of celebrity judges comprising Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell gave a standing ovation along with the audience. Reason: The Indian duo of Sumanth Maroju and Sonali Majumdar — called BAD Salsa — had put up a high-energy dance performance at the American talent show competition America’s Got Talent. As the audience clapped and whistled and host Terry Crews’ expression made it evident he couldn’t believe his eyes, they became the talk of the town for their energetic salsa take on the song ‘Dhating Naach’ from the Bollywood film Phata Poster Nikhla Hero.
The dancers shared that their stage name BAD is an acronym for Bivash Academy of Dance that they are associated with, generating much amusement among the judges. The duo had been mentored by choreographer, instructor and BAD founder Bivash Chowdhury.
At the show, the duo insisted they would only do BAD salsa, making the judges and crowd break into laughter. After the performance, Simon commented that he felt like he was watching a movie with the fast forward button on. Howie said the duo is just the opposite of bad salsa. To him, the dance was ‘dangerously’ good. Heidi said she was in awe of the speed of their steps and Sofia said she had to stop herself from joining. While all these post-performance comments came their way, Sumanth and Sonali kept smiling at the judges and all they said was a ‘thank you’.
Having returned to India, Sumanth and Sonali are back to residing in the gurukul-like Academy with other students and their instructor Bivash and his wife. Bivash who hails from Kolkata has been teaching dance for a long time. He, however, came into the limelight when in 2007, students of his academy won the Dance Bangla Dance regional reality dance show.
“Sumanth who is from Bhubaneshwar came to me when he was not yet in his teens and Sonali would travel from a place called Bagda to my place in Kolkata twice a week. She and her family had to travel for five hours to get to the institute. Finally, her parents decided to let her stay so that she can train better. After that BAD Salsa students continued to win several dance performances. I finally moved to Mumbai because travelling for dance shows was getting expensive for us,” recollects Bivash.
What makes BAD Salsa’s style stand out? “The speed, the signature steps along with salsa,” says Sumanth. Explains Bivash, “Every movie director has his style of direction. There is no name to it. Similarly, my signature dance moves have no specific name. I do a mix of acrobats, hip hop, trapeze along with salsa.”
Sumanth loves hip hop and says the duo is making waves in the dance scene because their parents have always been supportive of their wish to learn dance.
Incidentally, the two became a dancing pair by accident. “While I was preparing some students for a reality show in 2012, Sonali’s partner fell ill. I made Sumanth her partner and after that, they have not looked back. The pair has a different hunger for dance, so their coordination is fantastic,” says Bivash.
With several wins under their belt, the dancers from his Academy dream of nothing but dance. “We have danced in every prominent platform in India and abroad and everyone loves us,” says Sonali. BAD Salsa’s wins include India’s Got Talent (Runners Up), title wins at Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa on Colors TV season 6 and Dance Champions conducted by Remo D’Souza for Star Plus. The duo got noticed internationally when they participated in Britain’s Got Talent in 2019.
America’s Got Talent Season 15 is streamed in India on Voot Select and will go on air on Colors Infinity channel.