AURORA | Deepali Lindblom limps with a sprained ankle to a planter in her garden for some fresh mint for some homemade chai she’s about to make. It’s notably bad timing to have an injury.
“I’ve been dancing for 15 years and have never twisted anything. I wish I hurt it while dancing, that would make sense,” Deepali said with a laugh, her face lighting up.
She’s a traditional Indian dancer who specializes in Bollywood and Bhangra styles. On Aug. 8, Deepali and the cast of “Mountain’s Made for Us” open their Bollywood-style play at Vintage Theater in Aurora. The dancer co-wrote the production with Luke Sorge, a fledgling Denver playwright. The 20-member cast spans across 14 ethnicities, making it a multicultural event.
The story follows an aspiring dancer from India who moves to Colorado. She falls in love with a local guy, who lives a completely different culture. The romantic comedy focuses on the young couple’s relationship and their parents as they navigate these difficult waters.
“It’s a story about how we look at relationships and those little nuances that we don’t talk about,” Deepali said. “It’s not just about displacement.”
Displacement resonates with Deepali.
She grew up in the Himalayas, the great-granddaughter of a tribal warrior who was the first in his clan to leave the safe haven of his kingdom in Nepal. Her great-grandfather and his clan then settled in the village of Darjeeling, where her mother, Deepali and her two sisters were born.
Her mother was the first in the family to go to primary school. At 16, she was the first in the village to pursue a career in nursing.
She was the first in her family to marry for love.
Among great controversy, she married Deepali’s father, who was outside her religion and class. “What happens when you go outside your culture, you don’t have the security net. She was very vulnerable, and my father was in the military. He was traveling a lot,” Deepali said as she twisted her thick, dark hair on one side.
Despite her own temerity, her mother kept tight reins on Deepali and her sisters. Her views on the roles of women were as old world as where she was raised.
“It was a very small, enclosed, insular society where I grew up, and girls weren’t allowed to do a lot of things. But I was a rebel,” Deepali said. “I think I got my mother’s spirit, my great grandfather’s spirit.”
Like two generations before her, she made something for herself. Deepali moved to Mumbai and studied film and television production at St. Xavier’s College.
Deepali said her life is like a video game. She’s got a set of tools and resources, and when she finishes a level, she moves onto the next. She has a few of these similes for her life. Most of the time she calls them her incarnations. They all mean the same thing.
Life has always moved fast for Deepali.
After studying in Mumbai for two years, she met her husband, Johan, on a bus. After five minutes they both knew they were meant to be together, she said. Shortly after meeting, they moved to Sweden. And, as she says, her second incarnation, or level, began.
In Sweden she worked with the government in refugee integration programs.
Deepali pauses here. “Integration comes from both sides,” she said. “How can you ask refugees and immigrants to integrate when one side, which is the mainstream populace, will not come halfway?”
It’s not nuance, it’s just reality, she says.
“That’s not integration. That’s assimilation.”
From Sweden it was on to Montreal, another melting pot, and Deepali’s third incarnation.
She spent six years there. Although her college education was in film and production, she was able to turn that into new career in stage choreography. She worked on numerous theatrical productions, including “Satrangi” and “Poutine Masala.”
Each show brought vastly different cultures to one stage. She also led a troop of about 12 dancers who performed traditional Indian dances at festivals, ranging from Bollywood presentations to comedy fests. Not just a director, Deepali was also a full-time professional dancer.
She always had work.
“I was a very sought after dancer in Canada,” Deepali said. “I was at the height of my profession doing television, film, everything.”
Her life changed again when she moved to Colorado. She couldn’t get work as a dancer. So she decided to make the jump to theater.
Deepali’s fourth incarnation came with her life in Aurora. In her four years here, she left her mark on the immigrant and refugee community.
Her work with immigrants in Sweden inspired her to establish Roshni, a performing arts organization that works to bring traditional and cultural dance to the community. The philosophy behind it is that watching dance promotes wellbeing and fosters empathy.
The group is based on the concept of the South African word “ubuntu,” which is often translated as “I am because we are.”
The idea is that if one of us suffers, all of us suffer. It’s a word that drives Deepali to work with refugees and immigrants in the communities she has lived in. It’s why she remains sympathetic to others when they may not return it.
As a girl in the Himalayas, she recalls the wonder of the region’s strange, warm winter winds. In Colorado, they’re called Chinooks. She is amazed that two places so far apart actually have a lot in common.
“My journey has been from mountains of the Himalayas to the Rockies,” she said. “It’s like coming full circle.”
“Mountains Made for Us” is a Bollywood-style romantic comedy. An aspiring dancer from India moves to Colorado to restart her life and ends up falling in love with a local man. The performance comes to life with traditional dance and comedic one-liners. The show runs Aug. 9 – Aug. 11 and Aug. 16 – Aug. 18. Matinees at 2:30 p.m., evening curtains at 7:30. Tickets are available online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mountains-made-for-us-tickets-64296267868.