Aaah Bollywood. I love it. The drama, the action, the music and, of course, the dancing.
The leading ladies, delicately flicking their wrists and jangling their anklets, an inheritance from the courtesans and dancing girls who elevated their trade to an art form. In the background, a cast of hundreds sways together with a collective grace.
It was with this romantic view of Bollywood dance that I decide to join the workshops taking place last weekend. The organisers of Alchemy had set themselves the task of filming an entire Bollywood film in a week, and that meant a LOT of dancing.
I’ve watched enough films and have been known to bust some pretty snazzy moves at family weddings, so I was fairly confident that I’d got what it takes to add some pizazz to the movie’s grand finale.
An amazing choreographer was on hand – actress and dancer Shobna Gulati – who charmed us with her warm northern patter while managing to get us jumping, wiggling and twirling at her command.
We start off with a wiggly arm move, which Shobna described as the ‘many-armed goddess’. So far, so good, I think I’ve got this one pretty much sussed… I can’t help thinking about the ‘ugly sisters dance’ from East is East each time I do it though.
The classic ‘thumka’ (saucy hip wiggle) comes next. It seemed relatively simple to master. Surely, it’s just a matter of hip up, hip down, suggestive eyebrow raise and come hither smile, as perfected by the likes of Madhuri Dixit. This, I’m convinced, is going to be easy-peasy.
Alas, not so.
It seems my hip has trouble moving independently of the rest of my body. So when it goes up so does the rest of my leg, while my upper body curves over in a most ungraceful manner, making it look as though I’m suffering from severe stomach cramps.
I also note that while Shobna’s hands arch elegantly, mine look as though they’re trying to help planes land. In fact, I seem to have spent my life unaware of just how big my hands are, so I have to thank Alchemy for drawing this to my attention.
Regardless, I soldier on, having been blessed with a healthy over-estimation of my own abilities. But when I attempt an elegant twirl and manage to nearly knock over an elderly (but remarkably spritely) lady in the next row, I start to suspect that perhaps Bollywood dancing doesn’t come naturally to me.
At this point I’m called away to man the Bollywood Bitesized stand, a great loss for the rest of the dance crew no doubt who cope stoically with my removal.
Shobna did an impressive job, there must have been over a hundred ‘dancers’ there, encapsulating the full diversity of London with all ages, ethnicities and nationalities present. She managed to get our motley crew into shape in an impressively short period of time. We were army ants, dutifully following our queen’s commands.
Later, as I availed myself (again) of the excellent food on offer in the taste of India food market, I watched the dance being filmed for the movie. It looked spectacular, and managed to condense everything that is Bollywood, The Southbank and London, into one five-minute explosion of pure razzle-dazzle.
I can’t wait to watch the film.