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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Colorful dances grab attention as ‘Bollywood Oscars’ approach

It’s the hallmark of great Bollywood movies: lavish, high-energy music and dance numbers.

Bollywood dancing may be a new concept to some, but with the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, also known as the “Bollywood Oscars,” coming to town Wednesday, the colorful dance form is getting lots of attention.

“We’re getting calls from people who want to take classes or they want their children to take classes so they can participate in (Bollywood) events,” says Swapna Komarraju, owner of Srishti Dance Academy. “There is a lot of Bollywood dance fever going on right now. It’s very exciting.”

Komarraju and her students are busy choreographing Bollywood dance routines they’ll perform for celebrities arriving at Tampa International Airport for the awards. They also will show off their dance moves on Wednesday during pre-game at the Tampa Bay Rays.

Bollywood dance originates with the films produced in Mumbai, India.

According to Komarraju, Bollywood isn’t a dance, but a melting pot of various dance styles.

“It’s really a little bit of folk, a little bit of south Indian dance, some north Indian dance, and whatever the popular dances are, like hip-hop and jazz,” says Komarraju, who has been dancing since she was 3 years old. “It’s really a fusion of all of these things with Indian cinematic expressions.”

Komarraju teaches a variety of classes, including the popular Bollywood and Kuchipudi, a classical Indian dance form, to all levels, from beginners to more advanced.

“I love Bollywood (dance) best because you get to do so many different types of dancing,” says Kabya Ajjarapu, 8, who attends Chiles Elementary School. “It’s really not hard to do once you learn. And it’s a lot of fun.”

During the hour-long class, Komarraju and her assistant, Pangri Mehtha, lead about a dozen female students, barefoot and dressed in traditional Indian apparel, through a fast-paced routine with twirls, skips, jumping from side-to-side, squats and hip swings, punctuated by arm movements and hand gestures, all to the beat of catchy Indian tunes.

“It’s such a beautiful expression of happiness,” says Rajitha Nidadavolu, as she watches her daughter, Shreya, 14, practice her moves. “You can’t help but smile when you see them dancing. It’s a very fun and happy dance.”

For anyone interested in the classes, no experience is required.

“(Bollywood dance) is really about expressing your feelings,” said Saanvi Prasad, 8, who is in third grade at Pride Elementary School and has been dancing two years. “It really doesn’t matter how you look doing it as long as you do it freely and you have fun doing it.”

Komarraju believes Bollywood dancing will continue to gain popularity as Americans discover its beauty and benefits. Some of India’s most celebrated celebrities will perform glitzy routines during the April 26 awards show at Raymond James Stadium, which is expected to draw some 800 million TV viewers worldwide.

Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, the first winner of South Asian descent, helped thrust the dance form into the spotlight when she performed an electrifying Bollywood dance for the talent competition. And television series, such as “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” have incorporated Bollywood moves into routines.

“There are some wonderful dancers (in Indian cinema),” says Komarraju, who launched her academy in 2006. “Once you have the music and the movements, add a little bit of grace and expression, smile and just have fun. And it’s really a great form of exercise.”

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