The joy of Bollywood Dance
The Bollywood Sisters’ classes are all about fun, laughter and getting out of your head
It’s impossible not to smile when you watch a performance by The Bollywood Sisters. Their colourful outfits, huge smiles and energetic, often cheeky moves, radiate joy, fun and happiness.
The first time Lotje Boer saw them dance, she knew she wanted to be a part of it.
“I was so moved,” she says.
“They just looked so happy, so colourful, so alive.”
Her opportunity came a few years later, when the Bollywood Sisters started classes in her neighbourhood of South Golden Beach. She joined up straight away and has been dancing now for the past two years.
“I used to dance a lot when I was younger - go out dancing and that sort of thing - but being a mum you don’t get to go out that much, and I really missed dancing in my life. This has been a really good way to get that back.”
She says the classes allow her to have a break from her busy work and family life, get a good workout, and have some fun.
“I really wanted to do something for me, that wasn’t family time or working - something where I could really forget about everything and have some time out.
“It’s really physical. I don’t like jogging - and gyms just scare me - but I like to keep fit and active and we definitely get a sweat up, it’s very energetic.”
Lotje says the classes attract people (mostly women but sometimes men too) of all ages, abilities, confidence levels and body shapes, and there are no expectations or judgement.
“It’s a beautiful, accepting group and I love the diversity of people,” she says.
And although the steps can be quite challenging, she says there’s no pressure or judgment: “It’s not so much about getting the steps right, it’s about being present.”
Lotje’s teacher and Bollywood Sisters co-founder Zerina Millard explains that Bollywood dance is a fusion of Indian classical dance and lots of modern dance styles including including Latin, hip hop and African, which she likes to describe as “joyful modern Indian dance”.
It’s highly expressive - and energetic - but Zerina gives high and low impact options, and everyone is encouraged to work at their own level.
“We definitely get a sweat up, but in a fun and accessible way.” A teacher for the past 15 years, Zerina runs regular classes in Ballina and South Golden Beach, as well as performing at events and functions across the Northern Rivers with the Bollywood Sisters troupe.
She says although she took some Classic Indian Dance classes as a child, it wasn’t until a little later in life that she discovered her passion for Indian dance and the Bollywood style.
“Mum is from South India, but growing up in middle class Canberra that part of our culture was very much marginalised. Mum had enrolled us in Classical Indian Dance as kids but we didn’t like it because it was strange to us.”
In her 20s, after a trip to Brazil, she joined an African dance troupe in Byron Bay and later, a salsa troupe, but soon realised something was missing.
“Having dark skin I have always been able to pass as many nationalities, but eventually I realised I was representing all of these different cultures and completely ignoring my own.”
“I started classical Indian classes in Byron Bay with an Australian teacher named Prhlad and immediately felt connected to a hidden aspect of myself. I decided to travel to India to study more deeply. In 2003 my sister, Shamila, and I started teaching Bollywood dance classes in Byron in my dad’s warehouse and it has just grown from there.”
She says her focus in her classes always about finding happiness through dance. They’re also a reminder not to take yourself too seriously.
“My aim is for people to laugh, move and connect with themselves and other people, “she says
“Bollywood dance is joyful and often hilarious. It’s a chance to get out of heads and into our bodies and just have fun and be silly.”
DANCING QUEENS: The Bollywood Sisters, including co-founder Shamila, fifth from left and Zerina, third from right