A Local Bollywood-Style Musical Brings The Himalayas To The Rockies

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Stephanie Wolf/CPR News
Diana Muresan rehearses a dance scene from “Mountains Made for Us” at Aurora Cultural Arts District’s headquarters on July 25, 2019.

Bollywood meets the Colorado mountains in a new show opening Friday in Aurora.

Dancer, choreographer and actress Deepali Lindblom dreamed up “Mountains Made for Us,” which runs through Aug. 18 at Vintage Theatre. Lindblom co-wrote the show with local playwright Luke Sorge. The story follows Mini, a dancer who leaves India for the United States to start a new life. 

“[Mini is] in search of an identity, not just identity, maybe freedom, maybe just that she's somebody, not a woman, not a daughter, [but] her own self,” Lindblom said.

Mini lands in Colorado where she meets a local entrepreneur and falls in love. The couple must overcome cultural differences and parental disapproval to be together. Lindblom describes the show as an “intercultural Bollywood-style romantic comedy.”

True to the Indian cinema’s well-known style, there’s romance, humor, colorful clothes, music and dancing. 

Stephanie Wolf/CPR News
Dancer, choreographer and actress Deepali Lindblom at Colorado Public Radio’s facility in Centennial on Aug. 9, 2019.

But the story’s cultural roots go deeper than aesthetics. Beyond the love story, Lindblom said the show is about displacement and what it means to find a new home.

That theme also hits close to home to many of the actors in the show. About 14 different ethnicities are represented in the cast of 20, and many members are young refugees who Lindblom teaches dance and theater. When she began working with this group of young people, most of them had recently arrived in Colorado.

“They [were] still trying to find their identity,” Lindblom said. “And I'm so proud to see them coming alive through dance, through music."

Lindblom can relate to this search for identity and home. She's lived all over the world: India, Sweden, Canada. But when Lindblom moved to Colorado, she felt lost. Over time, the Rocky Mountains helped ground her, reminding her of her youth growing up near the foothills of the Himalayas. 

"Coloradans love the mountains, and we also love our Himalayas,” she said.

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Two dancers warm up for a rehearsal of “Mountains Made for Us” at Aurora Cultural Arts District’s headquarters on July 25, 2019.

The Rocky Mountains now play a prominent role in her show.

“There's so much in these mountains that we learn,” Lindblom said. “We learn endurance, we learn beauty, we learn to appreciate things that we take for granted, [like] the moment of quietness, the moment of integrity, just this deep connection to the universe."

Lindblom’s lead characters are both enchanted by the mountains, and it’s this shared passion that helps them realize their love for each other.

"Mountains Made for Us" is the debut show from Lindblom’s organization Roshni. To produce it, she got support from two other established arts groups: Denver-based Control Group Productions and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

For Vintage Theatre executive director Craig Bond, it was a no-brainer to work with Lindblom and help present her work given Aurora’s diverse community. 

Stephanie Wolf/CPR News
Part of the cast of “Mountains Made for Us” from left to right: Dechen Rai in the purple dress, Olivier Berthiaume, Chantal Safi, Alex Romberg, Mireille Bakhos, Niresh Subba, Deepali Lindblom, Jeremy, Monjila Rai, Ayushima Acarhya, Anthony Le, Albina Rai, Samita Subba, Jaime Lewis and Diana Muresan.

“Since Vintage Theatre is so close here in the heart of the Aurora Cultural Arts District, it felt like a natural progression for us to work together and to really provide a voice to the community that's within the zip code,” he said.

Lindblom is giving away about a third of the show's tickets, at no charge, to refugee and low-income immigrant families, those who otherwise would not have the chance to go to the theater.

Mireille Bakhos plays Mini's mother in the production. She's never acted before, but said the work spoke to her and she hopes it speaks to others. 

“I keep thinking of the butterfly effect,” she said. “Like this combination of people meeting from different backgrounds, having fun and noticing that we all enjoy the same things and we want the same things.” 

Because, Lindblom added, “matters of the heart” cross all boundaries.

Mountains Made for Us” runs Aug. 9 - 18, 2019 at Vintage Theatre in Aurora.