Bollywood dance, a global fusion style found in Hindi cinema and growing in popularity, has finally wound its way into Chattanooga.
Instructor Anita Rao, an 18-year-old Albuquerque, N.M., transplant, recently transported her enthusiasm for world dance to Chattanooga.
“It’s really high energy and you have fun but at the same time exercising aerobically,” Ms. Rao said. “It’s like Indian hip-hop.”
Bollywood fuses the words “Bombay” (now called Mumbai) and Hollywood. Typical Bollywood movies feature dance and music extravaganzas based in classical Indian dance yet stretching to include modern and Western dance styles ranging from MTV to Broadway musicals.
A hero or heroine is often solo and pas de deux, backed up by a chorus, in a beautiful architectural or natural setting.
“It’s basically a mix of folk dances you find in the villages in India with modern, jazz, belly dancing and other forms of dance,” Ms. Rao said.
A Bollywood class, taught on Friday evenings at Chattanooga DanceSport in the Bonny Oaks area, starts with stretching and a short warm-up.
Then Ms. Rao choreographs a short dance.
“You just learn from there — it’s pretty easy to pick up,” she said.
Hip movements are similar to belly dancing, though more informal, she said. Legs, core and arms all engage, she said.
“It’s pretty informal — it’s not a structured dance per se, it’s more like you have to have fun with the dance, really let yourself go,” said Ms. Rao, who studied classical Indian dance for two years and taught classical Indian and Bollywood dance for the past two years in Albuquerque.
Men and women may both dance in the class, as they do in the films, she added. Class dress ranges from fitness clothes to Indian garb.
At her first class last week, Lindsey Miller, a 23-year-old lab tech from Chattanooga, just dove in.
“It was something new and different,” said Ms. Miller, who has also taken bellydance, modern and jazz dance classes.
Elegant hand movements were a welcome but surprising change from other styles.
“Belly dancing focuses more on the core of your body. Bollywood seems to be more about hand gestures and less to do with your foot movement. Jazz and modern classes I’ve taken don’t focus very much on the hands,” she said.
Abby Hyde, a 19-year-old University of Tennessee at Chattanooga international humanities student, said she tried her first Bollywood class for fun and culture studies.
“I love that style of dancing. I have watched several Bollywood films, and I enjoy learning about different cultures. Bollywood is one thing that’s specific to Indian culture,” she said.
After studying ballet, jazz, clogging, swing and ballroom, Bollywood’s freedom delighted her.
“What interests me is that there really aren’t any rules. In ballet you have to keep your body straight. In Bollywood, you just listen to the music and let it direct you,” she said.
As a form of fitness, Ms. Hyde said she needed more experience to judge.
Ms. Miller, though, said it was an adventurous way to exercise.
“It’s a good way to work out your abs. And I’d definitely give it a try if you do any type of dance and are adventurous. And if you like any kind of Indian culture, it’ll open the door to experiencing new kinds of dance techniques.”