New York City, NY

Bollywood Class in New York City (in person!)

Michael Loren
Photo by nik radzi on Unsplash

Today, my friend Brittany and I went to downtown to sample our first Bollywood dance class. I know, I know. I have been living under a rock if I have never taken a Bollywood class. But I haven't. Well, I hadn't. New York City is the home to so many great Bollywood studios and I'm so glad that I finally got around to giving it a try. It was an absolute blast.

Brittany and I entered the dance studios around 5:45pm and were pleasantly surprised that the place was veritably quiet. We signed up at the door (it was assumed that we had already paid via Groupon, but nobody checked anyway) and entered the large mirrored studio. I looked around as the students filed in. I was surprised to see that there were no dancer-looking people in it. Just a bunch of normal-looking happy people. I was immediately relieved. I was terrified that I would be transported to a background package in a New York City-based episode of So You Think You Can Dance when I know nothing about the style. I breathed a little easier.

Our beautiful and petite teacher walked to the front of the class and introduced herself. The class we took was Bollywood Basics and is recommended to all newcomers to Bollywood dance. Our teacher, explained that we would do a quick warm-up and then we would learn an entire dance by the end of the class. She encouraged us to ask questions, leave the room and come back, and participate as much as we desired. She even smiled and said that we were welcome to chat while we danced if we wanted. Okay, I got it, she wanted us to have fun.

Then she turned on some Indian club-like music with a driving beat and started with a step touch. We tried various easy movements during the warm-up, mostly dance steps with specific hand movements, but it was at least a little fun. Our teacher was funny and charming and made everyone young, old, big, and small in the room feel comfortable,

"Feel free to add hips and shoulders to any movements if you want. In Bollywood, the more hips and shoulders, the better!" She explained that many of the steps we were learning were derived from classical Indian dances that were danced around harvest time, so many looked like harvesting plants or stamping soil, etc. I realized that there was much more to this Indian dance stuff than met the eye.

Our teacher, obviously, knew much more than she was letting on, but managed to just hint at details of the dance and focused more on the having fun part. It helped that the technique of this genre of dance lent itself to being easily danced by a layperson. There were no New York City Rockettes-style pointed toes, piroettes, or high legs, just bouncing, hip shaking, and expressive hands.

I could see where a dancer advanced in this technique could do much more than we were attempting in the class, but the movement was easy enough for most people to catch on and interesting enough to keep me engaged for an hour. Our routine (which we did, in fact, finish before the end of class) was politely sassy and actually a bit of an oblique workout.

Our teacher translated the words of the song as we danced and laughed as we did a "throwing heart" movement, "women are always breaking their lover's hearts in Bollywood dance." The dancers in the room giggled and threw their imaginary lovers' hearts to the floor with an arm flick and a hip shake.

We finished our dance and filed out of the room to the changing room where I heard murmurs of "that was fun" and "where's the next class?" I listened and realized I had enjoyed my introduction to Bollywood dance. It's a rare and wonderful person that up and decides to take an Indian dance class instead of just putting in an hour on the treadmill or the elliptical. I was inspired by the courage of my classmates.

Our teacher suggested some favorite Bollywood films to rent while a woman in her late fifties with dreadlocks put on her Birkenstocks (with socks!) and talked about the dance steps with a thin, hunched mousy looking girl of about twenty. We had all shared a lovely experience. It wasn't hard, it wasn't complex, and I will definitely not be adding Indian dance as a special skill on my resume. That wasn't the point, though. I had a fun time. That was. The next time you're looking for a fun workout in New York City, I highly recommend getting your groove on in a Bollywood dance class.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA

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