x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bust the bulge, Bollywood style

Looking for a fun way to get in shape and lose weight, Tahira Yaqoob tries out a Bollywood dance class with Nisha Shivnani at Ductac in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates.

Students practice their Bollywood dance moves. Pawan Singh / The National
Students practice their Bollywood dance moves. Pawan Singh / The National

Looking for a fun way to get in shape and lose weight, Tahira Yaqoob tries out a Bollywood dance class with Nisha Shivnani at Ductac in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates.

The class

Nisha Shivnani, who also performs at weddings and in shows with a dance troupe, promises a high-energy workout incorporating Bollywood dance moves, which she has adapted from hit movies and choreographed to music. Together with steps she has taken from her training in contemporary, jazz, ballet, bhangra and belly dancing, she says her routine will burn fat and trim love handles for "weight loss with fun".

"I have done a number of courses and incorporate all those moves into fitness exercises," says the 24-year-old, who has been teaching for seven years. "I taught myself to dance Bollywood-style and have been dancing since I was three years old."

What to expect

I'm slightly perturbed to find everyone in the class (except me) is under the age of 16. Shivnani assures me her students range in age from three to 55, with some more mature pupils choosing instead to book private lessons in their own homes or by forming a collective with friends.

Our group of eight begins by running in circles around the tiny studio, then doing some yoga stretches and push-ups to get our heart rates up and our muscles warmed. So far so good, although I can't get into the crab position (and haven't been able to do it since I was eight) so have to watch while the young disciples put me to shame. Indeed, some of the younger ones are so agile, they could be competing with our pint-sized instructor.

Shivnani then leads 10 minutes of choreography-based exercises, which consist of moving across the room with belly dancing shimmies and leaping in the style of a ballerina. Most are tricky to follow and, as everyone else is familiar with the moves, I find myself lamely bringing up the rear.

With the warm-up out of the way, the remaining 35 minutes of the hour-long class are dedicated to a dance routine. The soundtrack from Ladies vs Ricky Bahl is catchy but the moves are fast-paced and impossible to get my head - and limbs - around. As a first-timer I am left loitering on the sidelines, unable to join in as every time I finally memorise a move, the rest of the class is five steps ahead.

They include twists, squats and Beyoncé-style booty-shaking, all with Shivnani's own spin.

She says it takes several classes to get the hang of the steps, but it all feels too much like a routine the rest of the pupils have practised many times before and not enough like an exercise class, with too little in the way of basic instruction for my liking.

Difficulty

A four out of five, but the instructor is patient and offers to slow things down so everyone can keep up. The fact that most of the group are regulars is a good portent that persistence eventually pays off. Next month they plan to create a dance flash mob, launching themselves on an unsuspecting audience in a surprise location to show off what they have learnt.

It's great cardio workout if you can get to grips with the moves, but not accessible enough for an outsider. With a few more lessons and a little more constructive guidance on some of the trickier steps, it could be fun.

Pros and cons

I liked the thumping soundtrack, which makes you want to strut your stuff, and Shivnani's enthusiasm is infectious. However, I disliked the speed at which the class progressed with little time for instruction on the most basic steps. An ideal scenario would have been to have two separate classes - one for beginners, one intermediate - so the slower ones among the group don't hold everyone else up.

The details

The Bollywood dance class runs on Saturdays from 7pm to 8pm in Studio Enoc, Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai and costs Dh50 per session, with private classes starting at Dh350 per hour. To book, call 050 749 2067, email shivnani.nisha@gmail.com or see www.dancewithnisha.com