At Stepz, professional Bollywood dance instructors imbue students of all ages with dance moves inspired by Eastern India. They foster an environment of support and encouragement as dancers soak up fundamental foot positions and learn to express themselves through fluid movements and flowing hand gestures. Students looking to shed excess pounds can speed up routines in one-hour aerobics classes, which lead groups though rigorous dance routines specifically designed to tone muscle.
Dr. Aruna Chinnakotla has her feet in two seemingly opposite worlds. During the day, she's a primary care physician, studying and utilizing medical science to help others feel their best. But when she leaves her office, she trades her stethoscope for sequins, helping to energize others through Bollywood fitness dance. Fusion Beatz combines the doctor's passion for dance and medicine in a fitness program that exercises every muscle in the body. These high-impact dance moves also help students avoid injury unlike typical exercise regimes, which include cartwheeling through rings of fire.
Before moving to the United States to be with her husband, founder Shaira Bhan applied her lifelong experience in Bollywood dance—along with the jazz, ballet, and contemporary training she received in London—to supply choreography for films including Dhoom and Namastey London. Once settled in California, Bhan launched Dance Identity to offset the scarcity of studios supplying structured, progressive curriculums in multiple dance styles. She and her team help students to improve their health and build confidence through numerous creative classes, ranging from Bollywood DanceFuze—a blend of Bollywood, hip-hop, jazz, funk, contemporary, and Bhangra techniques—to club salsa, a class that teaches students timing, footwork, and how to spin without dropping any cilantro. When not at Dance Identity, Bhan hosts NDTV Good Times' health and wellness show, Bodylicious.
The talented instructors of Nach K Dekh call on years of dance-floor experience to impart the rhythmic gestures, fast footwork, and pulsating energy of Bollywood dance in classes for children, teens, and adults. Weekly classes begin with basic steps, then build on the skills learned in past sessions to help students eventually perform an entire Bollywood number, incorporating lively music and props to entertain the public at a theater or nearby Taj Mahal. Intimate sessions of no more than 12 students allow one-on-one coaching from instructors, helping dancers develop their skills quickly and correctly. For a more sweat-focused session, Nach K Dekh's BollyBurn class challenges participants to high-impact cardio workouts and muscle conditioning set to Bollywood music.
JM Performance Horse’s instructor, Justin Mott, grew up in the company of horses at his family’s ranch, first taking up reins at the age of 3. About eight years later, Mott handled his first horse in training. This experience prompted Mott to sharpen his understanding of natural horsemanship and study the works of Tom Dorrance, who emphasized the feel of the horse and its interplay with the handler. Today, Mott works upon the verdant hills and pastures of Sheridan Equestrian Center, training both horses and humans. In classes designed for students of all skill levels, the seasoned rider strengthens connections between man and beast while teaching posture, commands, and proper U-turn technique.
As strobe lights slice across the stage, masked dancers descend from scaffolding and undulate to Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” Minutes later, a troupe of 6-year-olds takes to the same stage in traditional Indian shalwar, or loose trousers, and launch into a frenetic dance set to fast-paced bhangra music. These divergent routines—performed at Mona Khan Company’s student showcase—hint at the scope of dance styles that instructors bring to their classes. Though traditional folk and classical South Asian dance make an appearance, instructors also incorporate styles such as salsa, modern, and hip-hop.
This Bollywood dance philosophy has propelled Mona Khan Company into the national spotlight. The company’s professional dance troupe has performed with Bollywood demigod Shah Rukh Khan and dancer Shaan, and dazzled a live audience on America’s Got Talent.
Though classes at Mona Khan Company occasionally lead to professional dance careers, the studio strives to make Bollywood dance accessible to every aspiring dancer. For example, Jollywood dance classes train performers age 65 and older, and the Jeena program trains special-needs students. “It’s more than just dance,” says Ms. Shankar, the company’s dance captain. “We try to build a whole community around it."