Indian-based dancing a multicultural experience for well-being

Right before the credits begin to roll, the viewer is treated to an upbeat and energetic dance number — one definitely not lacking in flair or style. Danny Boyle’s 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire” certainly ended on a high note.

This scene was one of North America’s first mainstream exposures to what is known as Bollywood dance.

Originating from Mumbai, India, Bollywood dance is a mixture of classical and Indian folk-dancing styles, amongst many others.

Raw energy collides with a release of cathartic enjoyment as palms fly in many directions, embracing the moment.

Having worked 18 years instructing dance in the Mumbai Bollywood film industry, Vish Malpuria is certainly no stranger to the art form.

“There is a lack of talent teaching Bollywood dance in the western part of the world,” Malpuria said. “We came down here to start opening up to people about what Bollywood really is, and how all of its elements are fun and energetic.”

Malpuria had the opportunity to open as a guest artist for Michael Jackson’s Indian concert in Mumbai.

Currently with the YMCA, Malpuria has been choreographing and instructing classes with the organization for the past three years.Dance instructor/choreographer Vish Malpuria striking up a pose with five of his students from Bollywood dance (Keshia Larsen, Chelsea Meyer, Lynette Christensen, Tracy Mulholland, Jodi Tarney).
Photo taken by: David Goldenstein

By selecting the newest and hippest songs coming out of the Bollywood industry, Malpuria creates his own choreography for his classes.

Malpuria started with four students attending his classes. Now he has more than 500.

Keshia Larsen said, “After having my third baby, I needed to get back in shape. I thought Bollywood would be a fun way to do it.”

Lynette Christensen agreed, “It’s just fun and it doesn’t make you feel like you’re exercising, even though you’re getting a good workout.”

And Tracy Mulholland was simply looking for something different — having been involved with many other types of dance beforehand.

“I was looking for a different experience, something I hadn’t done before,” Mulholland said. “I’ve done many types of other dance, so I thought it’d be neat to try something of a different origin.”

Chelsea Meyer’s love for dance, and the aforementioned “Slumdog Millionaire” dance number, inspired her to take the class.

“I simply loved the end of the movie where they have that entire huge dance number,” Meyer said. “I thought doing something like that would be completely fun.”

For Jodi Tarney, it was about finding something fun — yet actively engaging and difficult.

“I wanted something fun, yet unique too,” Tarney said. “I also wanted to challenge myself to get me outside of my comfort zone.”

When asked if the ladies would retake the class in the future, or recommend it to anyone else, a unanimous “yes” was the answer.

As with any other style of dance, Bollywood dance provides an effective workout for healthy living.

“Bollywood dance has an extensive dimension of cardiovascular activity involved with it,” Malpuria said. “It’s ultimately about having fun with cardio, and benefits people mentally, physically, and even spiritually for some.”

Malpuria adds that cardio is only one piece of the puzzle though, and the dynamic nature of the exercises and moves learned in the class will ultimately get people in shape.

“Everybody knows you have to shock your body to get into shape,” Malpuria said. “So that’s what it is. In every class you shock your body by doing new choreography and learning new moves and routines.”

Beyond fitness-related benefits, Bollywood dance offers a solid platform for people to gather together and to experience multiculturalism, Malpuria said.

“Attendants of the class get a diversity of culture,” Malpuria said. “It’s a community event. You get to meet people, and it’s really a social scenario.”

Above all else, Malpuria sees value for the Bollywood dance class as being more than just about simple mental and physical exercise.

“The value is immense,” Malpuria said. “You have to witness it for yourself and you’ll see how interesting it is.

“As people leave, they are tired,” Malpuria said, “but when they leave, they are still smiling.”

dgoldenstein@cjournal.ca