Marlette.jpgThose of us who aren’t familiar with Bollywood dance perhaps had our first glimpse in 2002’s The Guru, then again in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. But if you think that this exuberant ensemble dance is confined to the red-hot plains of India, think again—it’s more popular in our own country than you realize!

At the recent Beauty and the Beach event hosted by Women’s Health in gorgeous Boracay, an assortment of ladies were treated to an hour-long Bollywood dance class right on the sands. The teacher? Manila-based dance instructor and fitness extraordinaire Marlette Alano Besa, who showed the participants how to circle their hips and snap their wrists ala Aishwarya Rai.

But don’t be confused by the bared bellies and distinctly Indian flavor: Bollywood dance is separate from its sister, bellydance—though not by much of a margin. “Bollywood dance is based on traditional Indian folk dance, which also has elements of bellydance, so it’s really hard to compare the two,” explains Marlette. “The only difference is that Bollywood dance is a fusion dance. It combines elements of hiphop with Indian dance.”

Marked by jutting hip bumps, constant arm movements, and the fact that it’s best performed by a crowd, Bollywood dance is (famously) the essence of Bollywood films. Its movements tell a story and represent a culture—which is precisely why the dance appears, with all its bells and whistles, in the bulk of Indian celluloid. “It’s festive, colorful,” Marlette shares. “Like being in a party.”

It’s also choreographed in a repetitive, recall-friendly way, so the moves are easy to follow even if you aren’t a dancer. “Rather than a freestyle dance, it’s more patterned,” says Marlette. “There’s a distinct move for each part of the music. So when you hear one part of the song, you already know what to do.”

New to this dance but eager to try it out? We asked Marlette for 5 reasons why you should. Click on!

Marlette Alano Besa teaches Indian Bollywood dance and many other dance styles on a private basis. She also teaches yoga. Contact her via email at or via mobile at 09175206160. You can also visit her website,

(Photo of Marlette Alano Besa by Ingrid Villafuerte. Other photos by Marco Manzoni.)

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