If you ask Ria Aikat, 30, and Jennalee Desjardins, 33, to describe an unusual element in their dance routines, they will likely say—laughter.
Meet the Giggle Queens.
The Toronto-based performance/choreography duo are empresses of a distinctive style that combines Hip-Hop and Bollywood as well as other Eastern styles such as Bharatnatyam. There’s some helping of humour thrown in for good measure as well.
Ria and Jennalee’s pieces combine Bhangra, Bharatnatyam and other genres with Waacking (a Hip-Hop style that was popular in the LGBTQ clubs in L.A. during the 70s).
“How did the name Giggle Queens come about? well, it was an organic move,” Ria explained. “We noticed there wasn’t a whole lot of room for laughter in the pieces we saw. So, we felt we had to make a small corner for ourselves in the dance world.”Ria Aikat, dancer/choreographer, and one-half of Giggle Queens
Ria and Jennalee met in Ottawa in 2012 through Culture Shock Canada, a Hip-Hop organization. Later, they moved to Toronto and began to explore the dance world here.
“My introduction to Bhangra was definitely through Ria,” Jennalee admits. “I had watched few (Bollywood) movies and enjoyed the music but it wasn’t a serious pursuit until we decided to do something fun and different.”
The hallmark of anything “fusion” according to me is that it should blend two distinct styles, flavours, or genres flawlessly. If the transition is choppy, it defeats the purpose. The Giggle Queens pull that off.
Which is probably the reason why music is the centerpiece in all of Giggle Queens’ performances.
How does Hip-Hop/Bollywood fusion work?
In their piece (choreography reel, 2020) Jennalee and Ria’s synchronized movements has elements of musical theatre. It has actors, props and scenes all unfolding to a Bollywood tune.
“We like to embrace laughter and comedy into our dance,” Jennalee explained. “Music starts our process or creation. What I like about Bollywood music is that there’s room for a lot of passion. To me, it felt as though Waacking was always made to go with Bollywood music.”
Their movements are set to high-energy beats. If you observe carefully, you might notice Ria and Jennalee’s footwork and arm moves subtly mimic some Bharatnatyam moves.
“The overarching theme of our upcoming performance will be that we will showcase the two distinctly different sides of a warrior woman,” Ria explained.