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What is Bollywood dance? One could say it is the dancing in Bollywood films, which is in turn a mixture many styles, both Indian and Western, and be perfectly correct. From Chandrakantha.com:
[Bollywood dance] is a mixture of numerous styles. These styles include belly-dancing, kathak, Indian folk, Western popular, and modern, jazz, and even Western erotic dancing . . . Its exact definition, geographical distribution, and stylistic characteristics are amorphous. In spite of all of this, it is surprisingly recognisable.
To understand the real flavor of Bollywood dance, however, it is necessary to understand its context: Bollywood films. India's film industry is almost as old as that of the West, and it is now the largest in the world, but the Bollywood films show no sign of becoming subtle or understated. The themes are larger than life, sometimes with casts of hundreds, stretch on for three hours (with an intermission) and are unremittingly full of color, music, dancing, stunts, comedy, tragedy, sound and fury. Bollywood stars are national mega-stars. Billboards advertising Bollywood films cover entire buildings. From the book The Art of Bollywood:
It has been called an independent state of the Indian union, a domain with its own language, customs, and codes. The claim is not exaggerated, for Bollywood is indeed an alternate reality far removed from the drab gray world we inhabit.
Over the years, Bollywood has given birth to a famously hybrid form of cinema that mashes together Indian and foreign influences. For Western viewers accustomed to their own traditions of stroytelling, the Bollywood narrative often seems a mere device to present extravagant song-and-dance numbers, high-strung emotion, comic interludes, fights, and a host of other elements. This kind of film is commonly known in India as the masala film, after the Hindi word for a spicy mix. Bollywood has derived many other uniquely Indian genres as well - mythologicals and devotionals, which draw inspiration from the Hindu epics; socials, which are essentially urban melodrams; stunt films, which are an eccentrically Indian take on the American B movie; and so on.
The chief attractions in any Bollywood movie are its stars, who in India command devotion to the extent that temples are built in their honor. Gossip magazines and national newspapers alike track their every move...Their loyal followers tend to watch their films again and again, which is why certain cult films.. have run for many years in theatres.
Hindi cinema's influence can be seen everwhere, from television, fashion, and advertising to the very language of the streets. Its images pervade the visual culture of the subcontinent...They dominate public spaces everywhere - Bollywood produces publicity images on a scale that has transformed the urban environment in India, turning entire cities into galleries for its giant displays.
Unlike American movies, where dance numbers diminished and almost disappeared over the years, Bollywood films often include many solo and group dances. From Dance.LoveToKnow.com:
With the pressure of production schedules, choreographers have drawn on the movement vocabulary of the rich Hindu dance traditions to enable them to teach and create dances quickly and efficiently. Most actors in Bollywood have some classical dance training, and so familiarity with many forms of dance, Bollywood hand gestures included, is very common. It also lends a particularly Indian flavor to any film (many of which are making their way to the West).This is not to say that there are not contemporary dance moves put into the choreography as well. Jazz, ballet, even hip-hop have become common, all infused with traditional Indian dance. These dance numbers give the Bollywood actresses, usually very demure and prim, a chance to really "vamp it up" and strut their stuff on the dance floor. Much choreography for women focuses on the hips and torso, whereas men are usually given fancy footwork solos; both sexes use their hands in the traditional hastas or hand gestures.
TheBollySongs has taken the trouble to compile links to hundreds of Bollywood songs on Youtube. This is a total of hundreds of songs. The navigation is a bit confusing but it is well worth the visit. If the channel is too confusing, start with this jukebox page.
Ruric-Amari and Samovar in concert
photo credit: J Hendrix
RURIC-AMARI teaches Bollywood in Louisville, Kentucky.
Author: Maura Enright
©2012 by Maura Enright
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