TERENCE LEWIS TEACHES A SENSUAL, EROTIC AND FEMALE STYLE
By Lieve De Pourcq
Surrounded by middle-aged (mainly female) amateurs. It started off really great! (And I'm not being ironic.)
The energy radiated by people dancing for fun, as a hobby. A feeling I forget from time to time. The atmosphere was loose and relaxed and we were all curious and eager for what we would learn this week.
Terence gave us a quick overview of what Bollywood dance is or can be. It comes down to everything that is hip at the moment. The movements are based on traditional Indian dance, classical Indian dance, hip hop, Flamenco, disco dance and so on and so forth.
As long as it is quite cheesy, kitschy, romantic and dramatic, it fits into the concept!
The dance consists of a lot of hand movements with symbolic meaning: patak, allapadma, namaste and other names too tricky to remember.
Legs and feet indicate the rhythm, going from easy to more difficult structures.
Bollywood dance is - it makes sense - derived from the Bollywood movies and tries to tell a story through its movements and its facial expressions, much like a musical.
We started off with getting to know each other's names (and forgetting them soon after) and warmed up with a yoga sequence every day.
The levels of the participants were quite diverse, so it was not always easy to find a way of explaining things so everyone would understand. I think that it wasn't an easy job to satisfy the "fast" people while not frustrating the "slow" ones. In the end, I think we all managed quite well and everyone was helping each other out.
After the third day though, I got totally frustrated with people standing right next to each other and then getting annoyed if they got hit... Not that nice anymore to take classes with amateurs... Grrrr!
Besides some hardcore jumping and a daily rhythmical workout, we learned two choreographies throughout the week and they were taught in the typical way of learning dance: By copying the teacher's movements.
Those moves were quite unusual to me though, e.g. the head is always a little tilted, facial expression is very important, since the dance always tells a story. Even the lips and the eyebrows have their own choreography! The back is always straight and only very little movement is allowed with the spine.
To me, the choreographies seemed quite frontal (directed towards a camera?), very little turning involved, and no floor material, except for sitting and sliding over the floor a little.
The style is very sensual, erotic and female. A lot of the movements reminded me of jazz dance or aerobics, but when taken out of their context and put in this Bollywood environment, they somehow shifted and became something else.
Something I could, at least, execute better than in an aerobics context!
At the end of the week, a magical trunk opened and out came revealing and sparkly dresses, designed to make one feel ... well... a little stupid, but also somewhat sexy... and ... errm... Indian?
It was great fun and felt a little bit like carnival, but nevertheless it had an influence on our performance. It became easier to identify with an Indian prostitute, to "sing" in Urdu or Hindi and the moves came out smoother and juicier than they did before.
Appearance seems to be everything in Bollywood and no matter what, it worked for the quality of our dance!
Learning a new style of dance, getting in touch with another aesthetic, meaning and understanding of dance is great, but in the end, drowning in the superficiality of beauty, drama and kitsch is not really my thing.
For a week? Yes, please! I very much appreciate tearjerkers, dramatic movies, situations orchestrated to work on somebody's emotions. I sometimes even search them out to dwell in them.
But for real? No thanks!
I can imagine using some sparks and hints of the movements I learned, as a kind of translation and maybe even integration into one's own movement style, but a direct translation onto the stage (in a serious way) would be rather hard for me.
Besides the clear aesthetic, I cannot find more depth in it, except for maybe the history of the movement material.
And this I also encountered in Terence himself. I knew him a little from danceWEB2003 and was talking to him and his assistant Bertwin throughout the week.
One thing they mentioned together with Juliana Neves (she's from Brazil) is that there is so much misery in their country that putting conceptual art on stage is not an option. They cannot put work on stage that is serious or dealing with a topic that makes people think and question their actions.
Nobody is interested in this. The people experience so much suffering in their daily lives, so when they go to see a performance or a movie, they want to enter a happy dream world, a fantasy, which makes them forget whatever is going on outside of the theater. Suddenly, it made a lot of sense that Bollywood movies are so popular in India and that the actors starring in them are considered national treasures and admired.
Terence also made a few interesting remarks when he was talking about the difference between Bollywood dance and contemporary dance. He said: "We dance for the deaf and the dumb".
Meaning, whatever is sung is perfectly reflected by the body and the facial expressions. "It is not like contemporary dance where they say something and then try to confuse the audience."
It is quite hard for Terence and his company to integrate contemporary dance in India. He told me that they always have to balance out their performances.
They have to mix fleur-blue, sugar sweet work, secretly spiced up with contemporary work. So that the audience can get used to this style and increasingly accept this kind of work.
I also noticed that each time I met Terence in Vienna (2003 and 2007), his workshop choices had evolved from modern dance to more physical and contemporary work which he tries to integrate into his work in India.
One single person can change very quickly, but to make a whole country digest these changes takes time.
Hollywood: Is a district in the City of Los Angeles, California. Due to the amount of movie studios and movie stars located there, Hollywood is also used as a metonymy of the cinema of the United States. It is the largest film industry in the world.
Bollywood: This is not a physical place, but it is the informal term used for the Mumbai-based Hindi-speaking film industry in India. The name comes from Bombay (former Mumbai) and Hollywood. Bollywood films are mostly musicals containing catchy music in the form of song-and-dance tracks that are woven into the script. Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in the world and the largest in terms of the number of films produced.
Nollywood: The cinema of Nigeria. The name is derived from Hollywood in much the same way as Bollywood. The Nigerian law restricted foreign television content so producers in Lagos began televising local popular theater productions. Many of them circulated on video and therefore the Nigerian film industry has mainly become a video movie market. Between 1000 and 2000 films are produced each year. An article in The Guardian from March 2006 cites Nigeria's film industry as the third largest in the world in terms of earnings.
Some more Hollywood-inspired names:
Chollywood: Peruvian film industry
Dollywood: an amusement park owned by Dolly Parton
Lollywood: Pakistani film industry
Sollywood: Sindhi film industry
(August 6, 2008)