Half a century ago, Chubby Checker (ironically) popularized the waist-whittling dance, “The Twist”. Twenty years on, Jennifer Beals’ Flashdance foot-stomping fueled record-breaking sales of leg warmers: required apparatus for burning off surplus 1980’s calories. Micro-shorted Richard Simmons challenged TV audiences to “Sweat to the Oldies”. Suburban strip malls spawned Jazzercise classes.
Americans were not the only ones dancing their way to fitness: Middle Eastern belly-dance and Colombian Zumba hopped onto the scene. The Indian dance sequence that wraps Slumdog Millionaire hatched a zillion imitators on YouTube from tween-age sleepovers to formal wedding parties: the music is infectious and near-impossible to endure without some nerdy head nodding or shoulder popping. A good tune can be more motivating than medical data to get us moving.
Now aspiring dancers in Dubai can log off YouTube and learn fancy footwork straight from a master Bollywood dancer. This summer, Hindi film star Meghna Naidu is establishing a Bollywood dance academy in the United Arab Emirates.
Naidu is an Indian dancer and actress, whose first major appearance was in a wildly popular 2000 music video for UMI10’s “Kaliyon Ka Chaman”, a remix of Lata Mangeshkar’s 1980’s hit “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai”. Naidu starred in several music videos before moving on to Indian feature films.
The Dubai-based performer has participated in more than 800 shows around the world in the past decade, and she’s a favorite with Dubai’s Indian community. In addition to her stage career, Naidu is also joint-partner in an event management and promotions company in Dubai. Establishing the academy allows Naidu to introduce Bollywood dancing to a global audience, linking the cultural artform to both fitness and fun.
Who doesn’t want to dance their way to Freida Pinto or Dev Patel slenderness?
The main center will be located in Karama, home to the largest concentration of Indians in the region. She also plans to open a center in Dubai Marina to cater to the expat community.
Classes will target children as young as four to allow instructors to work on dancer coordination, proper balance and technique from the start. Complex dance sequences will then be introduced. Classes will also be customized for adults of all ages, particularly geared to stay-at-home mothers looking for a fun workout.
“Coming from a South Indian background, it was very important for my mom – who is also a classical dancer [Kathakali] – to teach us some form of classical dance. Bharatanatyam was the most common in those days. It really helped me a lot with my postures and my balance for Bollywood dancing”, said Naidu in an interview with The National.
The Academy will officially start in September, the beginning of the Dubai academic year. In the run-up to formal opening, she will also run dance camps throughout July and August. Ambitions are high: Naidu is also in process of expanding into the USA, aiming to establish a Meghna Naidu Academy in New York possibly in 2013 or the first quarter of 2014.
Check out more detail on the academy website. Bollywood summer camp costs about $250 for a two-week course, which includes 30 hours of dance instruction. Dance classes start at less than $15 per class.