Bollywood Dancing

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Slip on a sari, slap on a bindi and dance up a storm. Bollywood dancing is a stylised dance form based on moves used in the Indian film industry. Energetic and varied, Bollywood dancing is primarily modelled on classical north Indian folk (e.g. Bhangra) and courtesan (tawaif) dance routines. More recently, Indian dance elements have often been blended with Western dance styles and it is not unusual to see pop and traditional moves in the same film.

How does it work?

The dance moves taught in a Bollywood class will largely be influenced by the popular films at the time. Creativity is also encouraged, as many Bollywood musical numbers are incredibly melodramatic or comedic and translating them into dance often involves a literal interpretation of the lyrics.

Some of the typical moves that are usually adapted or blended in sequence with others include:

  • '''Hareepa''' A move which involves swaying your hips, gently waving your arms above your head and hopping from side to side in time with the beat.

  • '''Shoulder Shrugs''' Arms are held aloft and bent upwards at the elbow. Then you simply shrug your shoulders several times...

  • '''Basic Bhangra Step''' Arms in the air again, except this time the wrists get a work out. Pretend you are unscrewing a light bulb with each hand and shrug your shoulders. Step with one foot forward and then one foot back in time to the beat and tilt your head from side to side to complete the move.

Posture and special awareness are key, as dances typically take place in large troupes and body part isolation is also important, with sections of the dance focusing specifically on the head or hands.

A typical beginner’s class will involve a warm up, an explanation of moves (slowed and broken down into easy to follow sections), instructor demonstration and then repetition of moves as a group to hone accuracy and timing. Mirroring is also used because unlike classical or ballroom dance, many routines are designed so that all troupe members perform the same move in unison rather than as part of a smaller group or pair.

A typical dance studio is usually used, with mirrored walls so that you can observe and perfect your body shape as you dance. It’s a good idea to wear comfortable clothing that allows your arms and legs to move freely as many Bollywood moves are quite angular and flat footwear (or going bare foot) is advised. Bring along a bottle of water too, as bouncing to Bhangra beats can be thirsty work!

Is it for me?

If you like to think you’ve got good rhythm and would like to try a different form of dance, Bollywood may be right up your street. Due to its light-hearted elements, it provides a dance class that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is especially open to beginners. There is no age limit, although centres are likely to hold separate adult and junior classes, and both men and women are welcome. However, if you have two left feet and are not very coordinated, you may want to bypass Bhangra, as constantly tripping up in a large group setting will certainly get you noticed.

Although the energy of Bollywood dance will get your blood pumping, it is not particularly strenuous and so if needed, can be adapted to work around any injuries or mobility problems. Pregnant women can happily be blooming Bollywood beauties too!

Good to know

Piccadilly Cinema in Sparkhill, Birmingham is Bollywood cinema central- the cinema devotes all its screens to showing Bollywood films… and nothing else!

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