Bringing the beauty of Bollywood to Bermuda
It was cross-country season at Heron Bay Primary and 11 girls complained that they did not want to run.
Teacher Allison Figuerido had a novel idea, the girls could instead try Bollywood dancing, a type of dancing popular in Indian films.
Four years later, Mrs Figureido is teaching it at Bsmart Development Centre Limited, the educational programme she now runs.
The Bsmart Bollywood Club Performance Team stole the show at the recent Cablevision Salute to Service Banquet at Fairmont Southampton. They were asked to perform as part of a series of acts at the banquet celebrating Bermuda’s different cultures.
Bollywood is a popular genre of Indian film that originated in Mumbai, India. The choreographed dancing in Bollywood films is usually based on traditional Indian dances.
“I was an awesome dancer when I was younger but I never got the opportunity to take lessons or do dance,” Mrs Figureido said. “I am from an academic family and my parents wanted me to concentrate on academics. I missed out on a lot.”
Despite not having any formal training, Mrs Figureido said she has a knack for choreography.
“I have binders full of my dances,” she said. “My students know that one minute and two seconds into the dance they are doing this movement and at one minute 30 seconds they are doing this movement, and so on.”
At the moment her studio in the basement of Ram Re House on Reid Street has no dance mirrors. Students cannot see themselves when they practice.
“We’d like to get sponsorship from the community so we could buy things like dance mirrors,” said Mrs Figureido. “But we are still trying to get our name out there.”
She said it is thrilling to see how far the group has come. Most of the students had never heard of Bollywood before. Some had never taken dance lessons. Some had no sense of rhythm. Mrs Figureido coached them privately for over a year before they were ready to perform.
“I live vicariously through them,” she said. “It makes up for not being able to do it as a child.”
Before each dance seven yards of sari (a traditional Indian dress) is wrapped around the girls. This process takes three hours.
Although Mrs Figureido said she can’t “sew a lick” the costumes are put together by herself and a relative.
“It is hard to find costumes because you find mostly belly dance costumes, and this is different,” she said. “The belly dance has different movements and the costumes are a little bit more revealing. I just love different cultures and I love Indian culture. The people are just so beautiful and vibrant. I have learned all the Bollywood songs. We have about ten dances that the club does, although we are cutting some out so we can move onto newer dances.”
She tries to keep the hand movements in the dances simple. The group has performed at various venues. One of their biggest challenges came at the last Bermuda Day Parade.
“Just as we started on the parade route the generator blew and they had no music,” said Mrs Figureido. “They had practised up to six hours a week. Someone had a little boom box that they could barely hear and they performed. I ran ahead the whole parade route looking for people who might have set up on the route. I found someone outside Victoria Park. He stuck my iPod on his system and they able to dance to music there. I ran the whole way and couldn’t find anyone else. The response from people was not what I expected. I wanted them to pull out, but the crowd wanted them to keep going. The crowd went wild when we finished.”
Dancing in a parade, Bollywood style, was no easy task, she explained. The dances are vigorous some routines last six minutes.
“You have to figure out how you are going to move and dance without killing yourselves,” she said.
Participation in the club costs $300 a term.
“It is hard because there are a lot of other girls out there who would love to be a part of it,” she said. “If we were able to get more sponsorship I would be able to offer bursaries to them.”
Females of all ages are invited to participate. At the moment the average age is around 12 and there are about 15 dancers in the group.
For more information visit www.bsmartbermuda.com, telephone 295-6909 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.