Last Sunday, the fledgling group traveled to the Grace Von Vorst Church in downtown Jersey City to perform a series of Indian dances for the church's 16th Annual Cultural Affairs program.
Harish Naik, a North Bergen resident and president of the Hudson County Indian Association, brought a dance troupe of 12 young ladies. They performed two dances for the 250 or so who were in attendance.
"This was the first time our girls were performing in an American church, so we were all very excited," Naik said. "This is our way of helping our American friends learn more about the Indian culture. But it also helps us learn more about the different American cultures. It helps to bring us all closer together."
Representatives from the Grace Von Vorst Church, namely Garth Kobal, Kathleen Ferguson and Dale Hardman, learned about the Hudson County Indian Association from an article that appeared in The Hudson Reporter Newspapers in October. They contacted Naik from the article and asked if the organization would like to perform at the church, which he gladly accepted.
All of the performers were under the age of 18 and the dances were choreographed by 13-year-old North Bergen resident Bina Nayee.
"She really is a talented young lady," Naik said. "She did a fantastic job."
The first performance was a re-creation of a dance scene from a typical "Bollywood" musical that are popular movies in India. The five girls, dressed in elaborate costumes, presented how Indian movie stars would dance in a movie.
According to dance member Pooja Naik (no relation to the organization's president), a 13-year-old eighth grader at Horace Mann School in North Bergen, the dance troupe has been performing all over New Jersey and has won many awards at Indian dance festivals.
"We really love doing it," Pooja Naik said. "We love performing and dancing. We try to perform as much as we can. I think all of us had a great time."
The talented young lady, who has been performing in dance competitions and festivals since she was 4 years old, feels that the predominately American audience was captivated by the performance.
"I think they enjoyed it," Pooja Naik said. "I saw the expressions in their faces and they were all amazed at what we could do. I think they actually saw how we dance and perform and do certain things and that helped to give them a better idea of what we're all about."
Pooja Naik was joined in the Bollywood dance by performers Vrata Patel, Krishna Shah, Manikaa Nayee and choreographer Bina Nayee.
The second dance number performed by the group was an Indian folk dance called "garba."
In this number, 12 young ladies in traditional Indian dress dance on the stage to the music sung by popular Indian singer Paragraja Naik (the brother-in-law of organization president Harish Naik).
"My brother-in-law came all the way from Missouri to sing the live song with our group," Harish Naik said. "He performs all over, in California, Florida and Canada, but he came in to Jersey City for this performance."
The number was an extensive one, spanning nearly 20 minutes, which means that both the singer and the dancers needed incredible energy.
"But we love to do that," Harish Naik said. "All the girls are very happy to perform. We're able to teach the audience a little about Indian culture, and they all seem to love it."
Pooja Naik and Bina Nayee also performed in this dance, along with Vrata Patel, Krishna Shah, Manikaa Nayee, Komal Nayee, Sejal Nayee, Dhara Vaishnav, Damini Parekh, another girl named Krishna Shah, Nikisha Limbachia and Shivani Shah.
"I think we're making more friendships with the other cultures," Harish Naik said. "We would like to reach out and perform for other churches and groups. We want to find other cultural programs like this one."
Kobal and Henry Faulkner, the host of the show, invited the Hudson County Indian Association back for future shows and festivals.
"It was a very memorable day for all of us," Harish Naik said.
In a sign of appreciation, the Grace Von Vorst Church gave each young lady a certificate for participating in the event.
"It was so much fun," Pooja Naik said. "We all wanted to just keep dancing. I think we helped those who wanted to learn about different cultures. I made some new friends from all different backgrounds. There were only a few Indian people there, other than the performers, so it really showed how people can be so different, but they can all like the same things."