It’s five days before the Oscars, and I’m heading to the rehearsal hall at L.A.’s Prospect Studios to get a sneak peek at the Slumdog Millionaire dance number set to debut during the big show. As I walk past the “General Hospital” and “Grey’s Anatomy” soundstages, I hear resounding music notes sure to breathe life into all of the patients in both shows’ fictional hospitals! Booming from inside the studio come the sounds of taiko, Indian Dohl and African drums—which I soon learn serve as the backdrop to Fatima Robinson’s breathtaking Bollywood choeography.
“The piece is definitely Indian fusion,” Fatima tells me when I mention that the number seems to feature elements of various genres. “Bollywood choreography is actually very similar to hip-hop choreography, and hip hop derives from African dance, so you can see all of those influences. I love the hand movements and accents they hit in Bollywood pieces.”
Adding oomph to those accents are Indian Ghongru, which are jingling anklets worn by the dancers to complement their colorful costumes. No doubt about it: Featuring 30-plus dancers along with the live drummers, the dance is shaping up to be quite a production—much like its Best Song–nominated film counterpart. And Fatima’s the perfect person to translate the vision to the stage. After all, she also made her Bollywood mark in Cheetah Girls One World, and this isn’t her first time up to bat at the Oscars: “I worked with Oscar producers Bill Condon and Larry Mark on Dreamgirls. Plus, I’ve choreographed for the Oscars in the past, so this was the perfect match,” shares Fatima.
Not surprisingly, the Slumdog number ends up being a hit at the awards show, and “Jai Ho” takes home the Oscar for Best Song. But the fun isn’t over yet—Fatima and the dancers wake up bright and early at 6 am the next morning to do it all over again on Oprah’s after-show. And that’s not the only way the piece lives on: E! airs a segment in which all of its staffers take their own stab at the “Jai Ho” Oscar extravaganza. Do I see the next Macarena coming on? —Jen Jones