Bringing Bollywood to Blank


by Laura Wiersema

The Dance Club of Simpson College hosted a Bollywood dance night with Gateway Dance Theatre in the Blank Performing Arts Center.

A total of 16 students showed up to learn the traditional style of Indian dance, including senior Ella Ward.

“It’s a celebratory sort of dance for the Indian culture,” she said. “It was a blast.”

This type of dance comes from the Bollywood film industry based out of Mumbai, India. Most of the films are musicals, incorporating dancing throughout them.

It also isn’t confined to one specific “style,” much like dancing in America isn’t strictly ballroom. There are slow and fast variations that can pull from any number of other dance styles including Latin, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary.

Bollywood night was the first time Dance Club has brought in an outside company to teach a class since the group started in the fall of 2013. One of the group’s founders, Annie Collins, said she heard about the Gateway Dance Theatre through Simpson. For May term 2014, Gateway taught a class entirely dedicated to Bollywood dance. At the end of the term, the class performed for anyone who wished to attend.

“We knew that Gateway had connections with Simpson already… We wanted to maintain the connection,” Collins said.

Two representatives from Gateway came for the event, Penny Furgerson and Sanju Pilli. Furgerson has been with the theatre for 40 years; Pilli has been there for 10.

The step-by-step instructions allowed students to learn an entire routine within the hour allotted. The moves were fairly simple and repeated themselves a lot. The students caught on quickly and smiled as they danced along to the music.

Once the entire dance was learned, the instructors passed out brightly colored skirts, scarves and bindis, forehead decorations commonly worn by Indian women.

The colors in Bollywood costumes are bright because it is mainly a celebratory style of dance.

“In India, it’s used for everything. You just need an excuse to dance,” Pilli said. “I just love the happiness, the joy. It’s about celebrating something.”

According to the instructors, happiness and passion are both crucial to dancing Bollywood well.

“You just have to feel it. It’s not so much the gestures. It’s just feeling,” Furgerson said.

Pilli added onto Furgerson’s comment saying, “It’s something you do when you’re happy; it’s not sad. And I think everyone likes to be happy.”

Ward wasn’t sure what Bollywood would entail when she walked into the dance studio but she enjoyed learning the dance.

“If you’ve never done it before, try.” she said.

At the end, Collins said she could see Dance Club bringing Gateway Dance Theatre in again for another dance night, teaching more Bollywood or some other kind of dance.

“I think next year it’d be really great to try and bring in an outside company every semester,” she said.