In their performances, they fuse and present Indian dance in a contemporary way while respecting its traditions.
India is one country that is loved by one and all, our culture, our traditions, our value system and our larger than life colourful Bollywood films rule the hearts and minds of millions worldover. But loving a particular culture and living a life that way are totally different aspects of life. Foreigners do love our over the top emotional films but promoting it by dancing and making shows out of it is true love for India I must say. One such love affair with Bollywood is of Bollylicious.
Bollylicious is a Belgium-based dance group consisting of four dynamic dancers Laura Neyskens, Nakoulou Leblanc, Tom Decuyper and Ayla Joncheere who love Bollywood films like no one does. Like Amitabh Bachchan said in the film Namak Halal, “I talk English, I walk English.” Same way the team Bollylicious talk Bollywood and walk Bollywood, in fact I will say they eat, sleep and even live Bollywood. That is the craze and madness they have for our films.
Their performances boast of successes from New York to New Delhi. They were spotted as uprising talent in the media in Belgium and they are the first dance company to introduce Bollywood to Belgian and Dutch television on shows such as Dansdate in 2014 and So You Think You Can Dance in 2015. Supported by the Belgian choreographer Alain Platel of Les Ballets C de la B they are vying for a place to represent Indian dance culture on a professional platform which is totally dominated by Western contemporary dance.
Tom Decuyper, one of the team members of Bollylicious, who in spite of being a Belgian national, is a true Indian at heart and had a heart to heart conversation with me. Today I would proudly like to share what he had to say about their love for Bollywood music, dance and of course India.
What does Bollylicious really mean?
The name of Bollylicious is a contraction of “Bollywood” and “Delicious” and this was consciously chosen when we founded the collective. Not because we wanted to do Bollywood dance, but rather because we needed a commercially familiar name to present ourselves to the European market. The word Bollywood is basically the only word that connects India and stage performances in an obvious way to most non-Indians. However, our intension was never to be a Bollywood dance group. But our objective is to present Indian dance in a varied and original way.
So what all dances do you do apart from Bollywood?
In our work we do present Bollywood of course, but we also perform multiple Indian folk dances and semi-classical dances, and integrate multiple other non-Indian dance styles too. We interpret Bollywood, not only as dances that are related to Hindi cinema, but we also associate with it for its liberal hybridity in the positive sense.
How and when did Bollylicious come around?
Laura, Nakoulou, Ayla and me first met each other in 2001 during a Rajasthani Kalbeliya dance workshop in our hometown Ghent, Belgium. Though we individually have trained in multiple dance styles Indian and other styles, such as salsa, contemporary and flamenco, our taste for Indian dance remained common. For almost 10 years we performed in several productions and then decided it was time to develop a project of our own. With Indian dance as a common ground, we founded the dance collective “Bollylicious” in 2013 and since then we have performed under this unique name.
What is the mission of Bollylicious?
We intend to uplift Indian dance to a professional level, standing side-by-side other international dance projects. We focus on large accessibility and want to represent more diversity in the current international dance scene. As European audiences are not very familiar with Indian dance, it’s a challenge to present India’s rich traditional culture, by remaining accessible for non-experts without being merely exotic, and by being equally interesting for spectators with a high knowledge of Indian dance.
What attracts you to Bollywood?
We love old Bollywood films we watch them often, we love classics like Pakeezah, Umrao Jaan, Mughal e Azam, our favourite songs are Dil Cheez Kya Hai and Chalte Chalte. The costumes in the films are magnificent and we try our best to use similar rich and vibrant costumes as seen in the films. From the new films we have loved Devdas, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat.
Do we see you enter Bollywood films soon?
We are sure we do not want to be in a Bollywood film, standing behind a star, performing some dance step in the background. Now a days, most foreign dancers are doing just this in Bollywood. We want to do more choreographies, events and performances and be a part of something more historic.
Bollylicious is a very conscious balancing act whereby they try to be intercultural mediators through dance. In their performances, they fuse and present Indian dance in a contemporary way while respecting its traditions. They aim at being original and simultaneously they reach out by being accessible to audiences. They continue to fight for international respect for Indian dance.
Bollylicious takes great pride in receiving respect and appreciation from audiences around the globe. They find it of utmost importance to receive appreciation from the country that inspired them so much, India. Talking about their performance Bollywood legendary actor Mr. Amitabh Bachchan said, “I saw entertainment and dance from Bollylicious troupe from Belgium, all Indian moves and songs, they were enchanting and gifted.”
They are excited about the strong support of Indian audiences in India as well as in the diaspora: Bollylicious has performed for Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during his state visit in Brussels, Belgium in March 2016, they have also performed at the Jaipur Literature Festival and have been invited by multiple royalties of Rajasthan, including His Excellency Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur to perform for them and they also made their American Premiere at Battery Dance Festival in New York City, Manhattan in 2017.
Team Bollylicious have also had the honour to perform for the state reception for King Philippe and Queen Mathilde in Delhi in 2017. Excited seeing them dance for the state reception, Queen Mathilde asked them about their costumes and their visit to India too. In fact happy over seeing their performance, His Highness King Philippe of Belgium said, “We must be proud to say that the B of Bollylicious also stands for the B of Belgium.”
There two shows have rocked Belgium and other parts of Europe and the world. “Bombay Express” is a funky Indian style show thattakes the audience on a rollercoaster trip across India from royal Rajasthan all the way to funky Mumbai. Four energetic dancers present a diversity of styles, not only based on a multitude of Indian dance forms, but also inspired on other genres. During the show the audience remains entertained by the elegant beauty, playful humour and traditional narratives that the dancers of Bollylicious showcase.
Their latest production “Sitara” based on original folk & classical dance is inspired by the concept of mehfil, an artistic sharing of expressive poetry, music and dance previously presented in an intimate setting of the Indian royal courtyards. This dance show is full of nostalgic music, magnificent costumes and enchanting choreographies, set in a captivating Indian atmosphere. This year end Bollylicious with their “Sitara” will start their India tour too starting with Chennai in November, so if you hear that they are in your city leave all your work and go and see the delicious show by Bollylicious.
Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National Excellence Awards and one National Achievement Award by the Government of India. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org