Keshav Goyal (President, Blitzkrieg) and Trianka Mitter (Vice President, Blitzkrieg) warmly welcomed us into their practice studio at AB-5 for the chat we’d been scheduling for quite some time now. After having represented India in Hip Hop International 2016 at Vegas, they’re nothing short of India’s best Mega Crew. However, the selling point throughout this interview was the passion that reflected through their eyes and their stories. Amidst stories of Vegas and crazy choreography, we had quite the discussion about the year that was a year of wins and a year of experiences.
MTTN: How did Blitzkrieg begin, and how far have you guys come since?
Blitzkrieg: Blitzkrieg was started in 2007 by our seniors. They used to participate in events around Manipal. They started with participation in Atharva, Utsav, and Revels and in our previous batches they started winning almost everything. They set a benchmark, and we had a great responsibility. A lot of us were recruited on the basis of the fact that we had the potential to dance. So it was a huge responsibility. Everyone who wants to learn can always join us in our practice sessions.
For example– one of our seniors, Aditya Pratap, used to practice with us each day in spite of not being a member of the crew. He came a long way in learning since, and was a part of the team that went to Vegas to participate in HHI this year. There are many such people who’ve actively become a part of the crew now.
We remember how we as a crew first got the chance to perform at Atharva without any help from seniors, and we gave a disastrous performance yet won the first prize overall. Then we went to IIM-B where we gave a flawless performance yet strangely didn’t win anything. Surprisingly, a couple of hours before the performance one of our members’ dad passed away, and he still managed to stay back and perform for us: that’s the kind of passion and team spirit we maintain even in the darkest moments.
MTTN: You recently held a Hip-hop workshop. Are you all planning more workshops?
Blitzkrieg: Since we have Revels and TechTatva during the year with multiple bans and a busy schedule, we can’t have any workshops then. So if you strike that out, we get three months in each semester (without including the end semester exams) and we plan to have two workshops each semester.
MTTN: So will both the workshops be hip hop related or are you planning to get more versatile?
Blitzkrieg: That depends on a lot of factors. The reason we concentrate so much on Hip Hop is because we participate in events in and around Manipal which mostly focus on Hip Hop. It’s only during Revels and Utsav that there are separate categories for Eastern, Classical and other dance forms so during those periods we focus on our Eastern choreography as well. We were recently planning to do an Eastern performance in NITK, but we didn’t follow it through because we felt more comfortable with our Hip Hop choreography.
So yes, as of now, we plan to hold workshops on Hip Hop but as time passes by if we feel confident that we can pull off a workshop on Eastern choreography or contemporary, we will definitely do it.
MTTN: What are you looking for in people who wish to join you?
Blitzkrieg: We have a section on Bhangra, Classical, Hip Hop and Contemporary. So on the day of recruitment, you can choose the kind of style you want to learn, go to the person who teaches that style, and master it. The next day you can take up a different style, learn it and audition for that. For example John Daniel, one of our finest dancers at present was not that amazing when he joined us. He is now the main choreographer.
We do not teach things like Locking, popping or liquid because that would narrow down our sample space, but we do teach the four sections well, and anyone who needs to develop from that can go ahead and do so.
Also, recently we started inculcating Bollywood in our sequences. This was one new thing we took up at NIT, Calicut. We decided to perform on at least one Tollywood song in every event and it’s a different kind of crazy when you can pull it off in the other colleges. And we also do have a lot of Telugus in our crew so we always end up playing those songs during practice and it has become a tradition to include them in our performances.
MTTN: As someone who has literally no knowledge in dancing, how long does it take to choreograph a 30 sec sequence?
Blitzkrieg: A choreography of that length easily takes 2-3 days. Teaching takes a lot more time, but it’s a lot more fun. We as a crew have been dancing together for two years now, the bonding we have has made us well versed in our strengths and weaknesses. So we understand each other’s drawbacks and can end up teaching each other choreography quite easily.
So knowing the other person is extremely necessary for them to be taught choreography in the simplest way possible. Your comfort zone is all that matters.
MTTN: Wow! So keeping that in mind, how long did it take for you to get prepared for the international competition at Vegas?
Blitzkrieg: We practiced for one and a half months. Keshav, Devanshi and Akshay being CSE and IT students had their Microsoft workshop from 9.30AM to 5PM, we used to practice after and we did that for 11 days before the National Hip Hop competition in Mumbai. Then we went back home for about a week after which we came back and started gearing up for Hip Hop international(HHI) to be held at Vegas.
During the 11 days of practicing for HHI India, we came up with a whole new choreography, focusing mostly on transitions. As a Mega Crew it was important that our transitions look neat. Though we excelled at co-ordination being just 16 members, the disadvantage was that we were only 16, whereas there were mega crews which had about 40 members. So even the most coordinated steps for us failed to have the kind of impact as steps done by 40 people in sync. Also, we can literally never take a break because all of us have to be on stage throughout unlike in a team of 40 people where 20 can take a break when the other 20 run the show.
MTTN: How many teams did you compete against in round 1 and 2– how difficult was that?
Blitzkrieg: There are 4 main categories that participate in HHI- Junior, Varsity, Adult and Mega Crew. We have the zonal first, once we clear it, we have the national level competition and then we finally have the main event at HHI. We were fortunate enough to be placed 1st among the 14 teams that participated in the HHI India event at Mumbai. With so many glitches in our practice session the previous day we didn’t expect this, but everything was perfect on D-Day and we managed to mark our spot at HHI luckily.
During our performance at Mumbai, the anchor asked us where we were from, so we introduced ourselves as engineering students from Manipal. The entire crowd there started addressing us as the crew of engineers ever since. We were the only group there that did not focus on dance as our primary profession. Everyone else was a professional dancer, with a studio. That is what made us stand apart- our sheer passion and love for this art.
MTTN: How difficult was it to make it to Vegas? What are the general problems you faced?
Blitzkrieg: The very first problem we faced was—we didn’t have Visas. There was a discrepancy between us and HHI about the amount of money it would take us. For general people like us, there were no appointments for Visas. There was an issue with the college about when they would sanction the money for us. Quite a few of us had family problems—we were not financially well off to pay for the event at Vegas. One of our members’ dad owns a small shop at TC, he had to take a loan to pay for this trip. Some of our seniors were working, they had to take leave their job to come with us. There is a guy whose dad is a fisherman. So people from all over their community pooled in money to send him to Vegas as well as came to see him off! There were people who had genuine issues but never made a fuss about it only to realize this passion.
Practicing to represent India was a huge responsibility. We were scared and skeptical because we aren’t professional performers.
MTTN: How important was this exposure for you guys? What do you think was the biggest lesson you learnt through this event?
Blitzkrieg: Previously, we were just a club. Being representatives of our country in a major international event made us a dance organization. We realized the managerial side of our club. We now have an official letterhead, we are no longer a small crew of Manipal, we have a whole different managerial side now and that is probably the biggest change HHI has brought in us.
MTTN: So how was the experience at Vegas? What are the issues you faced once you reached there? Enlighten us with interesting tidbits.
Blitzkrieg: Moments after we reached Vegas, we realized that two of our members didn’t have their luggage. It was lost in transit, and their costumes were in that luggage. Luckily we got it back the next day. We then had to wait for 7 hours to get two rooms because we reached early. We had to accommodate 22 people in 2 rooms. An alumnus of MIT, Mr. Kaushik Nandan brought cars to receive us at Vegas. He got us dinner, water and stayed with us way past his bedtime: it was a pleasant surprise for us. Also an Indian member of an US crew helped us with his room because we didn’t have any room, so that is how we managed to spend the night. Food was very expensive. Also places to eat were far away, almost 160$ for travel back and forth.
We missed our train at Newark once, and we were late for our flight back to India—so we boarded a train with no tickets. The ticket checker helped us with the correct route, and we reached at the airport just on time, somehow got our boarding passes, and were going to check in when we realized we were too late to board the flight. We kept convincing them that we were 22 in number and the flight can’t take off without us. Then it was finally sorted, and we boarded the flight, only to realize three hours later that the flights were canceled. We had spent all our money and now we realized we would have to spend another day there with no money and no accommodation. So yes, these were quite a few fun problems we faced, but we managed to work around these.
MTTN: Any message you’d like to give to our readers?
Blitzkrieg: One thing we would love to say is, the biggest problem we faced was the collection of funds. But the kind of help we received from everyone was huge. Being a part of HHI was a dream come true for us, and we could realize this mainly because of Manipal and the exposure our college provides. Had our college not supported us, it would not have been possible. We want to thank anyone who has even contributed a penny towards this to make it happen. We went to KMC Manipal for funds, and met a couple of people who showed a lot of interest, so they gave all the money they had. They asked help from their council, we just came forward and they went out of their way and collected a lot of money for us and helped us. We want to thank the Director for the amount of help he provided us with, as well as the money he donated from his personal funds. A professor from IT (Arjun C V Sir) donated for us, the members of Rotaract as well as Rotary Club donated for our cause too. So yes it was a long process. And we want to thank everyone who played a part in it.
We at MTTN were taken aback at the sheer achievements this club has managed to achieve in a single year. From Unmaad, IIM-B where they came third; Anandaotsava, NMAMIT NITTE – First Position; Incident’16, NIT Suratkal – First Position; Incident’16, NIT Suratkal – Second Position (Western Solo – John Daniel); Ragam’16, NIT Calicut – Second Position; Ragam’16, NIT Calicut – First Position (Western Solo – John Daniel); Ragam’16, NIT Calicut – Second Position (Duet – Krishna & Bharat); Bollyshake Online Dance Fest – First Position; Revels’16—First Position, Utsav’16 – Second Position; Hip Hop International, India – First Position and they represented India at World Hip Hop International where they achieved the 43rd International Ranking.
It takes a great deal of mettle, hardwork, and a great spirit to keep working only because you’re passionate about something. We’ve all been at the crossroads at some point of our life, and it’s a great achievement to make it this far. Take a bow from our team and we hope this team sets even higher benchmarks in the future!
-As said to Prattusha Mukhopadhyay and Rahul Basu for MTTN.