Vicki Eide (front left)

Vicki Eide (front left)

Exploring culture through dance

Bollywood inspires local dance teacher Tracy Kaye Holly and her students, who have embraced the rhythms of India while staying fit

When Tracy Kaye Holly decided to offer Bollywood dance classes in Vernon, she brought her long history as a dancer and love of all things Bollywood along.

Bollywood, the Indian movie industry based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), is hugely popular around the world.  India produces more films than any other country (more than 800 per year), and it is estimated that one sixth of the world’s population watches Bollywood films.

“Bollywood movies have it all — dance, music, drama, comedy, passion — and they are really good actors, dancers and singers,” said Kaye Holly, “they are so expressive with their movements and their eyes.”

Wanting to combine her interest in Bollywood with her other passions — dance and fitness — Kaye Holly created a Bollywood dance/fitness class to get people moving to the rhythms of a different beat. With classes designed to build strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness set to dynamic Bollywood music, the class has taken off in Vernon.

The Holly Bollywood Dance Troupe was a natural progression from the dance/fitness class to a performance group, as Kaye Holly also had a vision of choreographing for a group and performing those big Bollywood dance scenes she enjoys so much.

The large spontaneous street dance scenes indicative of more contemporary Bollywood films combine hip hop, jazz, disco, belly dance and Latin dance moves with traditional folk and Bhangra.

Troupe member Sarah Kennedy agrees.

“I love the idea of ‘mob dancing’ in Bollywood films, the big group dance scenes with spontaneous, simple dance, but when everyone is doing it together, the energy that comes from that is just the best,” she said.

Why the fascination with Bollywood in Vernon?

“Immigration is the driver, more people meet Indian people and then they have that curiosity to know more. With immigration we have more exposure to other cultures’ food, film and literature,” said Kennedy, an immigrant herself who feels Canada does it right. “When I first came from England I thought Canadians were being overly politically correct, but then I went back to the U.K. and realized Canada has it right, there is far better integration in Canada. Curry may be the number-one take out in England, but they haven’t embraced the culture like Canada has.”

It was the love of Bollywood music, the costumes, and a chance to perform on stage that attracted Susan Stiglic Prince and her daughter Petra.

“I did a lot of dancing growing up and thought this would be a great way to get back into it. This is a lot more fun than going to the gym, it’s high energy, a really good workout and my mom and I like doing stuff together,” said Prince. “Who wants to go to the gym when you can wear beautiful costumes and dance?”

Stiglic Prince also participated in Hawaiian dance and notes that in traditional dances sometimes the movements have meaning.

“And you need to be aware of what the dance is saying, you need to be respectful of the culture,” she said.

The colourful costumes evoke a touch of the exotic and add to the visual interest for the audience wherever the group performs.

“There is a lot of bling, a lot of sparkle and a lot of pizazz, said Kaye Holly.

The dancers appreciate the beauty and richness of Indian culture and have embraced the music and dance as a way of celebrating diversity in Vernon. The Bollywood craze seems to be catching on, with more than just the dancers.

“Everyone seems to love it, the costumes, the music, they think it looks like so much fun they want to join,” said Kaye Holly.

Kaye Holly  has many visions for things she would like to create, whether that is a new dance/fitness craze, choreography or a costume design, but  never one to rest on her laurels, she is currently busy combining her expertise as a whole foods cook with a love of Indian food to create a whole foods Indian cookbook.

The Holly Bollywood troupe will take a break for the summer, but Bollywood classes will resume Saturday mornings in September at Ruth McGrath Dance studio on 28th Street in downtown Vernon.

Donna McGrath is currently completing an MA in Intercultural and International Communication at Royal Roads University.