Bollywood dance has come to Knoxville, bringing with it rich Indian culture that infuses drama and storytelling into its showcases.
Bollywood dance professionals Mala Jani and Gayatri Mahadevan teach classes weekly around Knoxville. Classes are given each week at Revolution Dance Studio and Broadway Academy of Performing Arts.
According to Jani, Bollywood dancing goes beyond the usual realm of dance. Bollywood dance incorporates drama, stories and emotion into the performances.
"Bollywood dance is the equivalent of theater dancing," Jani said. "It is all about drama and emotions. Bollywood dancing is a melting pot of different styles of dance."
Both dancers have a rich background and experience in their profession. For Mahadevan, dance has always been a major part of her life, even before moving to Knoxville.
"I started my dance journey 20 years back with Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam, in Chennai, India," Mahadevan said. "I learned and performed as a part of the Abhinaya School of dance. I then joined the Swingers dance company in Bangalore, India where I learned and taught hip hop, salsa and jazz."
Bollywood dance allows those interested in dance to tell a story through creative art form. The term "Bollywood" stems from the popularity increase in the 1970s of Indian films. Since then, a multitude of films and dances have been created, all of which vary widely but keep the same basic concepts.
The choreography is carefully arranged, along with the music, to create an enriching experience for both the audience and the performers. By merging different dance techniques, such as belly dancing and jazz, with more traditional dancing, such as Indian folk or Indian street dances, the performances come together into an entertaining final showcase.
Bollywood dancing is a new concept to some, but it is becoming more popular around the country. Those who attend UT or live in the Knoxville area can join Bollywood Dance, as well. Classes are readily available for anyone eager to learn something new.
For both Jani and Mahadevan, Bollywood dance classes give them an outlet to continue to do what they love while teaching others. Both ladies moved to Knoxville separately, but became dance partners over time.
"We both have moved from different states to Knoxville," Jani said. "We kept running into each other at different places and while talking, we realized that we shared a common passion for dance, especially Bollywood style. We both wanted to do something of our own and for the community where no other Bollywood classes exist at this moment. And that's what inspired us to start 'Nritya Masala – Bollywood Dance Classes'."
For anyone interested in the classes, no experience is required.
"We have a beginner class for those who don't have prior professional training and an intermediate class for those who do have training," Jani said. "While we wouldn't say that it is difficult to learn, it is definitely an acquired art. There are some nuances that are different but can be taught and learned without much difficulty.
"It is as hard or easy as picking up any new dance."
Bollywood dance classes taught by Jani and Mahadevan in the Knoxville area are currently held Friday and Saturday at Revolution Dance Studios. Private classes are also available.
"We love how graceful and expressive it is," Jani said. "There are different types of music genres and dance styles, that gives us a lot of variety."
For more information about Bollywood dance, or to sign up for classes, visit their Facebook page.