A scene from "Mira, Royal Detective." Courtesy Disney Junior

Disney Junior's "Mira, Royal Detective" Brings Indian Dance Styles to a Global Audience

The work of Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan has appeared everywhere from "So You Think You Can Dance" to a White House Diwali celebration with Michelle Obama to the 2014 Miss America pageant. But despite the variety of his resumé, Mahajan's latest gig marks a first for him: creating movement for an animated series.

The new children's show "Mira, Royal Detective" follows a spirited Indian girl who solves mysteries. Along the way, each episode incorporates authentic Indian music and dance. The series premieres in the U.S. on March 20, on Disney Junior and the Disney Channel, before being rolled out to an estimated 160 countries on Disney's global platforms.

We caught up with Mahajan to chat about translating his choreography into animations for the masses.



The Creative Process


"It starts off with me getting the script and the music and having a few phone call meetings with the writers, the executive producers and the brilliant team behind this show from Wild Canary and Disney Junior.

"Then I start the process of creating what the narrative is because Bollywood is a storytelling form of dance. I choreograph the piece, and videotape myself and my assistants, and send the videos over to their team. That's when the process becomes more magical, when the artists take you and your body and they create it into this amazing animatic."

Getting the Details Right

"Bollywood movement can be very stylistic. These [animation] artists are not professional dancers, so sometimes it's difficult to absolutely understand how my body moves. With my videos, I am giving a step-by-step tutelage of the movement.

"They're so meticulous about getting it right, so I get multiple versions until the final product is ready. This is a cultural form that's going to be airing across many countries, so we need to make sure that this is right and not just make a cookie-cutter version of Bollywood, which quite often happens.

"What's also wonderful is that I had the opportunity to teach many of the artists a little workshop—and that is very unheard of. No one's a Bollywood dancer, but the team was so interested. We got a few people moving and dancing, just for them to really feel it."

Nakul Dev Mahajan and Khushy Niazi in the studio

Courtesy Disney Junior

Not Just Bollywood

"India has so many different styles of dance. And what people sometimes don't realize is that Bollywood is a fusion form, taking from the many styles of dance in India but also from around the world. What 'Mira, Royal Detective' has done is not just celebrate Bollywood and the subgenres of what Bollywood is today—because the style has evolved so much—but there are episodes that feature real, authentic styles of Indian dance from different regions.

"There'll be a bhangra number, from the state of Punjab, which I am just all over 'cause it's so well done. There is a folk form called ghoomar, which is from the state of Rajasthan, that we'll be seeing as well. And then we'll be seeing Bollywood hip hop, which is very, very popular right now."

Why the World Needs Bollywood


"What Bollywood, for me, brings is a sense of celebration. Generally speaking, it is a very happy form of dance. Although there is a lot of technique to it, it is something that people can pass on and enjoy. And that's always been my feedback whenever people have seen Bollywood or my pieces: They're like, 'Wow, I just want to jump up and dance.' To be able to create that on this platform for children and with animation, which resonates on a different level—almost on a magical level—it's been truly a gift."

Latest Posts


Viktorina Kapitonova in "Swan Lake Bath Ballet" (photo by Ryan Capstick, courtesy Corey Baker Dance)

Please Enjoy the Quarantine Genius of “Swan Lake Bath Ballet”

That old saying about limitations breeding creativity—hat tip to Orson Welles—has never felt more relevant than in these lockdown days. Here's the latest brilliant dance project born (hatched?) of quarantine restrictions: "Swan Lake Bath Ballet," a contemporary take on the classic featuring 27 A-list ballet dancers performing from their own bathtubs.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search