Vandana Alimchandana

My name is Vandana Alimchandana and I was born in West Africa, in Lagos, Nigeria. And I’ve lived in the UK for 24 years now, in London specifically. My parents are originally from India, both of them. I always like to think that my artistic side comes from my aunt, my dad’s sister, who used to love dance, loved painting, loved playing the sitar.

I did classical Indian dancing when I was quite young. I think around five or six actually, in West Africa, Lagos. They had teachers there. I then went to India but, obviously, if anything, I was very young. I completed what I could, up to a certain level. It wasn’t like formalised fifteen years of training but I definitely think that the Bollywood side got to me a lot more. I loved classical, don’t get me wrong. At the age of eight or nine in West Africa, in Lagos, I had a Bollywood dance teacher who combined classical and Bollywood so beautifully that I always said that I’d want to be a Bollywood teacher after I learnt with her. I was like I’m going to be Nisha. I learned some Bharat Natyam and some Kathak when I was younger.

And I always thought I’d love to take on the role of actually teaching so I took it on for a community event where I actually taught Bollywood… so. But I actually combined it with different styles so there was some classically based songs, some Bollywood based songs then… That was my job. I think I was fourteen years old. Yah.

Bollywood dance really is… it actually is led by more of the songs, OK, the style that you want to put to it. Is led by the rhythm. You can sometimes make it more jazz, more classical, more Latino. Anything you want to, but Bollywood really is a term that gathers all different styles together. I don’t thing it’s itself just a style of it’s own and it brings in all forms.

It depends on the beat quite a lot. It depends on the rhythm. If I feel a certain rhythm actually works beautifully for classical moves I would put them in there. If I feel they don’t work with there, and the music is more modern I’ll try and give it more of a jazz feel to it. More of a street feel to it. But always with an element of Bollywood. Be it classical. Be it Bollywood. Be it cheese, Govinda style cheese god knows. But you always try to listen to the music more than anything to see whether you could put it in. some things like ‘Dhoom’, you know, you could, if you wanted to you put some really classical stuff into ‘Dhoom’ but I wouldn’t. I’d give it more of a street jazz kind of feel. So, it’s really something that comes from within.

I try to explain the meaning of the song to them. So when we are dancing it they try to express it a little bit more rather than not understand anything that they are doing to it. Like for example in class today it was like ‘nachle, nachle’ do you know what I mean. It’s like calling someone, you know, pick up your earring, do you know what I mean. Make it look like you are picking up some thing, rather than scratching your leg. So things like that I think is very important. That comes from classical dance.

They expect to see a lot of the stuff they see in the movies. They expect to see typical Bollywood stuff. Just a lot of hip-shaking. A lot of bulb screwing. You know what I mean? Things like that. Some of them are very clued up on Bollywood and want to see some very street style, Indo-jazz, Shiamak Davar style stuff, OK. Some people come in and want classical. So I do tell them that keep coming to classes and understand the fact that this song dictates the style. They kind of come in and realise it’s quite coy, sweet culture to a certain extent but sometimes they also hear some really crass songs. Do you know what I mean? Sort of like ‘ishkabi kariona’ things like that, you know, so very strong.

They kind of come in and they’re like, why is it so negative. Yeah, like it’s not. It’s all about trying to bring out this funky side to Bollywood as well as the… then you get your lovely sweet songs like ‘aja nach le’. You get your crazy song like the ‘halla re’ song I made you hear today from ‘Nill or Nikki’ which is like I want to show my body and all of that mad stuff.

I try to portray Bollywood Grooves as a company that provides classes to keep all styles happy. To make them appreciate the classical, with the jazz, with the Latino and the Arabic style. Everything comes in so people feel there is a good mesh. Not just pure Bollywood cheese. Do you know what I mean? Where you get a few shake shake shake and that’s it. You get to learn some really good hand movements but also get to learn good rhythm.