A brand new immersive workout experience is hitting NYC next week. On April 26th, Garjana, which means ‘the act of roaring’ in Hindi, will bring hundreds of New Yorkers together for a dance-workout charity event. All proceeds will go toward raising money for the nonprofit Food Tank. Following the hour-long workout, there will also be a pop-up farmers’ market with free tastings. Dance, eat, and have fun all for a good cause? … It doesn’t get much better than that!
From creation to execution, Garjana features an A-list of talent. The workout will be led by five dancers, all Broadway performers from the cast of Mamma Mia. Original music for the event has been written and produced by Douglas Romanow, a Toronto-based producer who has worked with hundreds of major artists including Justin Bieber and Tyga. Visuals and video are by award-winning film and television director Kevin Arbouet, and choreography is by Monica Kapoor, a dance-fitness instructor based in NYC. Also a Broadway performer, Monica’s previous work includes a seven-year stint in Mamma Mia, performances on Bombay Dreams, NBC’s Smash, and more.
Headout had the opportunity to speak with some of the the amazing talent behind Garjana. From what the event is all about, to personal stories, we asked Monica and Kevin, as well as Albert Guerzon and Halle Morse (two of Garjana’s lead dancers), to dish it all. Here’s what they had to say!
Headout: Hi Kevin, Monica, Albert, and Halle. This event you’ve all created is amazing! How was the concept of Garjana born? What does the name stand for?
Monica: Garjana means the “act of roaring” in Hindi (like a lion’s ROAR). To me, it means being authentic. Unapologetically you. A lion doesn’t apologize, shrink, or fail to express itself in the fullest of grandeur. And when it roars — the world shakes around them — for miles they can be heard. What motivated this idea was Food Tank’s struggle to heal the post-election divide. As a nonprofit focused on food policy (Food Tank), we did some major soul searching. We knew the country was divided and we were determined to help bring people together, rather than just add to the rhetoric. We thought about the things that unify all of us and settled on three—music, dance… and, of course, food. So, we came up with a crazy idea. Never before has a non profit food policy organization tried to reinvent the way we all exercise.
Headout: Wow, that’s awesome. Dance workouts have become quite popular in recent years. But a Broadway inspired workout is new for NYC! What inspired you to bring the two worlds of Broadway and fitness together?
Monica: I think with a lot of dance fitness workouts you really don’t know what you are getting. The quality really varies. By having Broadway performers leading the steps, you know that the event is being held to a certain quality standard. And we have built an incredible workout partnering with some of the cities best dance studios and instructors. We also wanted to go big — just like Broadway — so instead of a gym, we are bringing the workout to an iconic nightclub, using amazing props, and staging the event in the round instead of forward facing. The class is hard; it’s a real workout. Additionally, Garjana uses all original music so you don’t have to hear the same tired tracks you hear all day long — at the gym, in the car, when you enter stores, television, everywhere. To accomplish this we partnered with Douglas Romanow, one of the top music producers in the world, who has worked with Justin Bieber and Tyga. And the best part — after the event — we will be sharing tons of d
elicious food generously donated by some of NYC’s best local food companies. It’s no fun to burn calories if you can’t eat them afterward :).
Albert: What makes Garjana so interesting is it’s open level for everyone, and it’s colors of dance from different genres and cultures. It’s not boot camp or dance – it’s something all of it’s own.
Headout: You’ve all done some absolutely incredible work thus far in your careers. What are some of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments? Funny, embarrassing, touching – we want to hear your stories!
Kevin: Production tends to bring out the silly side of people even though it’s incredibly stressful. One of the popular ways to deal with this is pranks. One time we pretended that the make-up artist could only speak French and tricked the lead actor into believing this for two weeks. The poor guy tried learning all of these words in French and the make-up artist didn’t even know what he was saying!
Monica: Every really funny story I think of seems a little inappropriate to share! However, one of my most memorable stories was choreographing a gold winning, air-synchronized swimming routine that led my last place team to win a Bronze medal. We were given our metals by Patti Lupone! Our stage manager, Andy Fenton, would put together these Pseudo Olympic games that we would play between or b
efore shows. They would usually coincide with the Olympic games occurring at the moment. There were so many wonderful memories I made during my time at Mamma Mia but these games definitely stand out!
Halle: Meeting Monica’s kids for the first time was pretty memorable! I remember I gave away one of my too-small shirts to Monica’s daughter, who wore it as a dress for about a year – so adorable!
Albert: I’ve plenty of embarrassing moments on stage! I once got stuck to the set by a net that was part of my costume, I’ve finished turns facing the wrong way super strong and wrong, and sped to the wrong airport.
Headout: Those are great stories. Thanks for sharing! Kevin, this one’s for you – thus far in your career, you’ve broken tremendous ground in proving to the world that “being an African-American filmmaker can be limitless”. In doing so, I can only imagine what an inspiration you have been for other aspiring filmmakers. Who has been an inspiration to you throughout your journey?
Kevin: Lee Daniels taught me that I could be a business person, as well as a creative person. Creatively I’ve also been influenced by Mike Nichols, Nora Ephron, Quentin Tarantino, and Bong Joon Ho.
Headout: We’re all eager to know what ideas are floating around in your head. What’s your dream project? Any upcoming work we can look forward to?
Kevin: I’m a big ol geek, so I definitely want to do a comic book movie, specifically Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman. It hasn’t been announced yet but I just found out that I’m on the 25 Screenwriters to Watch in MovieMaker Magazine which is kind of mind-blowing because I’ve subscribed to that magazine since I was a teenager.
Headout: Congrats! That’s amazing! Halle, your next project, 3/FIFTHS by James Scruggs, is ‘a radically interactive carnival and cabaret examining race and privilege in America’. Sounds amazing! Can you share a bit more about your role in this?
Halle: Yes! 3/FIFTHS is a large scale immersive theatre experience that sheds light on America’s mass incarceration system. Like Garjana, this is a participatory event, except 3/FIFTHS takes place in an ethno-dystopian theme park known as SupremacyLand, where patrons choose their race upon entry- a little “pick your own adventure”. As the Associate Producer and Production Manager, I am leading a production team of 30+ designers and crew, plus 20 cast members. I’m partnering with Centurion, an organization that helps wrongfully accused inmates. I’m so excited to be expanding my footprint in the arts in this way!
Headout: That sounds like an incredible experience. For all you readers interested in more information on 3FIFTHS, you can read more about the production and find tickets here.
A question for everyone – all the proceeds of this event will be donated to Food Tank – specifically, toward “promoting efforts in NYC to reduce and/or eliminate food waste.” What are your ideas as to how Food Tank can tackle this issues in NYC?
Albert: I honestly don’t know yet. Maybe people who want to workout with Garjana will stumble upon a newer lifestyle that promotes better health and wellness, the realization of cleaner eating and food waste. Together we become more educated when it comes the environment in NYC. Becoming a small part of Garjana I hope to be one of those people who not only promote health and wellness, but can be educated as well, so not only the workout becomes contagious, but also, making a cleaner environment around us.
Halle: Raising awareness is key. Only recently has the conversation shifted from hunger and obesity to “food waste”. This is why Food Tank and organized events such as Garjana are so important! Joining forces in fun and meaningful ways with other organizations and individuals who care about making a difference is what strengthens the message!
Monica: Yes, it starts with great partnerships. As a starting point, Food Tank is working on a major policy summit on September 13 at the WNYC Greene Space to convene some of the best minds and more creative thinkers on how to tackle food waste and food loss at a city, state, national, and international level. More than 30% of all food produced is wasted — and to feed everyone hungry, not just in New York City but worldwide, we don’t necessarily need to produce any more food — just not waste the food we are already producing! Food Tank is working at every level — with farmers, policy makers, business leaders, consumers groups, activists and nonprofits, unions, the academic community, journalists, the funding and donor community, and more — to curate and implement some of the best ideas on how to solve this crisis.
Kevin: Food Tank remains a leader in food conservation and sustainability but the future lies in legislation.
Headout: I’m sure a lot of people who are unable to attend this month’s event will be wondering if they’ll have another opportunity to participate. Do you see more events like Garjana happening in the near future?
Monica: Yes! Stay tuned. We are preparing more Garjana fundraising events not only in New York and Brooklyn in the near future, but hopefully soon in many more cities across the United States and Canada!
So there you have it – a sneak peak and insider chat with the team behind the brilliant new workout concept, Garjana! The event will take place at the Highline Ballroom on Wednesday, April 26th. You can snag your tickets here!
To get your anticipation pumping even more, we leave you with Garjana’s first single and music video, “This is What it Feels Like,” featuring the cast of the show. Enjoy!