The centerpiece of Bollywood films is the dance action, which mixes classical traditions of India with touches of the western world — and it just LEAPS off the screen. Gorgeous costumery, electrifying music, and brilliant choreography (including mudras — symbolic hand gestures) combine to create something so irresistible, you might feel the urge to join in! 

You can, in Downtown — thanks to Madhavi Narayanan, an accomplished dancer, choreographer, and instructor who teaches a Bollywood Dance class every Wednesday at 5:30 PM on the Big Lawn at Lincoln Park. 

“Movement can be an incredible way to de-stress and connect with your community,” said Narayanan, a ‘22 grad of the UCLA School of Law who works as a human rights lawyer. “I hope attendees walk away from my class with a smile, feeling like they got to move and experience something new.”

Narayanan, who grew up in Seattle, has had Bollywood in her blood since age three, when her mother would dress her and her two sisters up to dance to popular Indian cinema songs. Soon she would be training in ballet, jazz, and tap dancing, and as a teenager she was thrilled to find a Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) teacher in Seattle. 

In 2013, she completed her Arangetram, a three-hour solo dance performance and milestone that marked her transition from student to professional.  

Bollywood’s mix of traditional Indian styles with western influences was a perfect way for Narayanan to blend all of her dance training. “I fell in love with how Bollywood’s welcoming and open style brings joy to people of all ages,” she recalled. “I started teaching Bollywood in many places around the world, such as Morocco and South Africa.”

Narayanan loves that in Bollywood, there are no strict rules, and plenty of freedom for self-expression. “You get to become a character and step out of your own day, life, and personality to really get engrossed in movement and music that is built around spreading joy,” she said. 

The talented and energetic Narayanan went on to share how much she enjoys teaching at Lincoln Park and meeting members of the community: “Every person I have met brings so much energy and enthusiasm. Their smiles keep me motivated. I love that they are willing to try new things and be silly when I ask them to — it’s all part of the fun of Bollywood!” 

To see photos of Narayanan’s Lincoln Park classes and to learn more about her, follow her on Instagram @MadhaviOnTheMove. For updates and upcoming classes, follow @lincolnparklb.