Hindi cinema is incomplete without songs and dance. If during its inception the style of dancing was heavily influenced by Kathak and Bharatnatyam, soon we saw cabaret dance and other western dance movements making their way into choreography. Large group performances in a song, just the hero and heroine singing and dancing around trees, Shammi Kapoor doing those jhatkas and jumping around… there has been a constant evolution.
The 80s brought in Disco, and the 90s freestyle dancing. Today, Bollywood dance is known as a genre in itself. “I think the dance scene in Bollywood will keep undergoing changes given the current scenario as well. When Bollywood first happened to me, I found movies interesting because I was choreographing in a moving frame and not in a fixed one. Working on Aditya Chopra’s Dhoom marked a notable change, as it was the first time that the audience witnessed the western style of dancing on the Indian stage in the song Dhoom Machale. Since then I think a lot has changed for the better,” says Ashley Lobo, who is considered to spearhead of international dance in India.
Bollywood is the melting pot for all dance forms and styles. “In the initial days of cinema, there were a lot of classical elements in the dances; then folk dances and other western dance styles like Twist, Cabernet, Cha Cha Cha, Rock and Roll became popular. Later, we saw a shift to Disco, then to Break Dance and then came the time of Jazz Broadway and now it’s Hip Hop that rules the silver screen. Dance is like fashion, styles come and go, but what remains is the essence of expressions that is the best part of our films,” explains Sandip Soparrkar, Indian Latin and ballroom dancer and Bollywood choreographer. The change he says happens when there is a new narrative because dance is as much a part of storytelling as is the script. “When vamps were popular in our cinema, western dance gained momentum. Today, when films have become global and are being shot mostly abroad, street dances have become the toast of the season.”
Choreographer and film director Remo D’Souza credits reality shows for the changing landscape in dance. “Dancing has grown so big in the last one and a half decades. Since the advent of reality shows, even the audience has become so aware about the varied dance forms. And not just that, they want to see the actors doing it.” Remo believes every actor joining the industry comes prepared accordingly. “So, the newcomers know they have to do it and they learn all the styles when they are coming to Bollywood. Nowadays, when I do choreography, it’s different from when I started. If I get Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Varun Dhawan or Shahid Kapoor, I know I can experiment some really cool moves and they will carry it well.”
From participating in a reality dance show to becoming a choreographer, Karishma Chavan feels the YouTube boom opened up all forms of dance all over the world. “As a choreographer, one must evolve and incorporate newer styles to stay relevant and fresh. All my seniors have influenced me in small and big ways. But I think Ahmed sir and Remo sir are the biggest role players in my understanding of dance as an art,” she affirms. And no matter how westernised Bollywood dance maybe now, classical dance these choreographers say will always be relevant.