Dancer engineers moves
L.A. resident marries Bollywood choreography with county job
by Shalini Dore
You wouldn't think that engineering and choreography would go side by side, but Yogen Bhagat, an engineer with the county of Los Angeles' public works department, has found a way to swing it.
The two have a lot in common, Bhagat says, such as precision, which is necessary in engineering and in dance moves. And, he says, "I can make my own props."
Bhagat, a native of India, fell in love with dancing at age 3 when his father couldn't get him off the floor at a wedding.
He learned Indian classical and folkdancing as well as breakdance and hip-hop styles. However, his father wasn't too pleased. Dancing is all very well, but you have to earn a living, he was told.
So he went to college and found his other love, engineering. But through school in Mumbai, Bhagat danced at local competitions, sometimes teaching his classmates and choreographing for them.
And he attracted the attention of the city's biggest employer, Bollywood. Bhagat has danced in pics with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshen. He made his U.S. debut choreographing Indian composer A.R. Rahman's Hollywood Bowl perf in 2006.
Bhagat is now working with Disney on its Food and Wine Festival at its California Adventure attraction, and Nuclear Mango pic "The Politics of Love," directed by William Dear and produced by William Keenan and Govind Menon.
"We love what he's been coming up with thus far," Keenan says. "He's one of the best, if not the best in town."
For "Politics of Love," about a black Republican presidential candidate who falls in love with an Indian Democrat during the election, Bhagat will choreograph a big dance number in which both leads (Brian White and Mallika Sherawat) perform with the supporting cast, Keenan says.
Bhagat says his unique fusion dance style is inspired by the legendary Indian classical dancer Gopi Krishna and Michael Jackson.
He and his wife also run Bollywood Step Dance, where they train professional dancers, many of whom also perform with Bhagat and his wife, Rashmi Goel, who is also a trained dancer.
Even his father came around and after seeing a performance: "You're really good," he told Bhagat.
With a flexible job and an encouraging boss ("She's taken my classes," Bhagat says), he's been able to pursue his twin loves. He's also performed for Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres.
There is a growing need for Indian-style dancing, Bhagat says citing shows like "Dancing With the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance." "A lot of dance shows see Bollywood as a category," he says.