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Animated Edition - Summer 2004
Blooming Bollywood
Reena Tailor and Skinder Hundal describe the development of the Bollywood Dance Academy in Birmingham
Bollywood - the largest film industry in the world.

Bollywood, India's version of Hollywood has taken the world by storm. Over the last decade Bollywood has made it big outside of India, influencing not only cinema, but theatre, fashion and even marketing campaigns.

Bollywood has inspired the West as well as the East, with West End productions such as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams and Gareth Gates' 'Spirit in the Sky' that had a strong Bollywood feel to it. Here in England the Bollywood craze has hit all corners.

To ignore the powerful emotion and nostalgia of Bollywood would be folly! With the glitz, glamour and 'sexiness' associated with Bollywood there is an increasing demand for this dance-form across a range of cultures and backgrounds. Sampad (the South Asian Arts Agency based in Birmingham) thought it important to utilise the energy and spirit of this dance-form in a positive way, by creating the Bollywood Neighbourhood project, "Bollywood Dreams".

Bollywood Dreams was set up by Sampad to attract new performers, identify new talent in the community and bring people from different backgrounds to participate through an activity collectively enjoyed by people from a range of different cultural backgrounds. It also would provide Bollywood dance teachers/choreographers an opportunity to develop their skills in working in non-conventional settings, such as neighbourhood centres like the Ladywood Centre in Birmingham. The Ladywood centre is based in a location familiar with the community and easily accessible. The centre's staff was also flexible and friendly and provided an informal and relaxed environment.

Most dance classes in Birmingham are available at conventional venues such as the mac (Midlands Arts Centre), DanceXchange or the Moseley Dance Centre to name a few. Although progress has been made in terms of diversity and access issues in such venues, there are communities who are still, initially more comfortable in settings and locations they are familiar with.

By taking classes out into the community meant there would be a higher probability in including people who wouldn't conventionally attend mainstream conventional venues. This was a key aim for Sampad as part of its audience development and access strategy to widen participation in the arts. The project was advertised through community networks, local Asian radio stations, and by flyers and poster distribution in targeted areas across Birmingham. The response was very positive and managed to attract members of both Asian and non-Asian communities. Having relationships with key people within the community to promote the project really helped but also the opportunity to learn a dance style so popular and glamorous was an attractive thought for many of them too.

The group who were trained varied in ability. Some came with their own 'living room' moves and others had no experience just an interest in Bollywood and dancing, a couple actually had classical Indian/contemporary dance experience and were looking for something less serious to learn. Over a 12 week period the participants met once a week for 2 hours and went through a routine of warm ups and carefully constructed choreographed moves to popular Hindi film songs. In only 12 weeks they were to learn dance moves to three Bollywood tracks!

The culmination of the project itself was a glamorous affair! After intense, but fun, Bollywood dance training the participants got a chance to perform, many for the first time, in their lavish bright filmy-style costumes and jewellery in front of thousands of people cheering ecstatically at Birmingham's annual Diwali celebrations. The participants finished on a high with an appetite and hunger to delve deeper!

As a consequence of Bollywood Dreams the Bollywood Dreams Dance Academy was born. This is now one of Birmingham's largest pure Bollywood dance academies with students ranging from 5 to 65. More importantly many of those who were involved with the neighbourhood project are passionately pursuing dance classes and accessing conventional venues to take part in Bollywood dance classes! The project has initiated a critical mass of performers who are now regularly performing with established dance troupes, such as Fusion, some are even thinking about setting up their own Bollywood dance companies!

As Bollywood continues to take the centre stage, artists from Bollywood are having the opportunity to cross waters into Hollywood and other Western Cinemas. Bollywood stars are becoming more recognised with the help of cable channels widely available in Western countries. Indian cinema has also made its mark on the world with movies such as Lagaan by being nominated at the Oscars. Bollywood is being recognised globally for what it is worth, and will do for many years to come and what's exciting is that it is appealing to all cross sections of the community.

For more information contact Reena Tailor, Bollywood Dance Academy on 07971 277 920, and Skinder Hundal at Sampad on 0121 446 4312 or email:

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Animated: Summer 2004