Student Spotlight: Bollywood Dancer Supriya Jain ’12

Supriya Jain ’12 has lit up countless shows since her freshmen year with her Bollywood choreography and performance. The Phillipian interviewed Jain about her dance career. Q: When did you start dancing? A: I’ve been dancing all my life, not necessarily organized dance, but ever since I was a little girl I’ve watched Indian movies and picked up dance steps from the songs. My Mom also used to teach me dances when I was younger, and I have dappled with my own choreography as well. I started formal training in Indian classical dance when I was seven. In terms of other styles of dance, like modern, hip-hop and ballet, I started in middle school. Q: What is your favorite type of dance? A: Definitely Bollywood! I love the variety and versatility of Bollywood songs and whether it’s partner dancing or a more theatrical approach, the possibilities are endless. Bollywood dance is definitely the style that comes most naturally to me and the type of dance I am most passionate about. Q: How do the different types of dance you know affect your dance style over all? A: Even the two Indian dance styles that I am primarily involved in contrast in numerous ways. You can imagine Indian classical dance as ballet, and Bollywood as hip-hop or jazz in terms of rigor and technique. Even the training, costumes, music and performance techniques are very different. I’ve definitely incorporated some of my Indian dance techniques into ballet and modern and I think that’s been helpful. I didn’t consider ballet or modern dance to be my forte, but I think I’ve really improved here through PA’s fabulous dance program and enjoy those styles immensely as well. Q: What does Bollywood dancing mean to you? A: In terms of dancing at Andover, Bollywood is one of the many types of dance styles I do here, though probably the most important to me at the same time. It started out as way to share my love for my culture with the rest of the PA community, but now it has become so much more. Now, Bollywood dance is a way for me to directly expose my culture to other dancers by teaching them as opposed to just performing for them. Q: As a choreographer, where do you get ideas from? A: I’ve been choreographing pretty much my whole life. Back home, I have inspirational mentors and friends who’ve choreographed dances for Indian cultural shows, so I think I get a lot of ideas from them. Also, all popular Indian films have dance sequences, so I’ve definitely been inspired by those too. I am truly a Bollywood movie and song fanatic. Usually, I pick a song for a particular image and just go from there. The melody and lyrics of the song definitely influence my choreography, but I try not to let them limit or confine me. Q: Could you describe your choreography for the upcoming Dance Open? A: For Dance Open this year, I am choreographing a two-song medley. The first song has a strong Arabian influence and the second has a Spanish theme. The challenge of course is that it is still a dance in the Bollywood style and so the result will hopefully be surprisingly refreshing. I hope to present the audience with something they don’t expect, but you’ll just have to come to the show to see for yourself. Q: What do you hope to achieve with your performances? A: I think it depends because when it’s Bollywood or Indian classical dance, many people haven’t been exposed to those styles or they’ve only seen the Americanized version in movies. I hope to present the real deal to spark people’s curiosity and maybe even ignite a passion in them for dance. I want to get people to see the versatility of dance and how everything is really connected. A lot of dancers here are so talented and can do any kind of Bollywood I throw at them, so it’s really exciting. Q: How has coming to Andover affected Indian dancing for you? A: I think being at Andover has given me so many opportunities to choreograph, teach and perform Indian dance. Back home I didn’t have as many chances to choreograph a piece and watch it come alive on stage, but here I have Grasshopper Night, Dance Open and Choreolabs. Last year a generous Abbot grant allowed me to invite my Indian classical dance guru, a live orchestra and professional Indian classical dancers to put on a show for the PA community. I think that was certainly a successful and exciting endeavor. Q: What do you hope for the future? A: I don’t doubt that dance will always be a part of who I am. I don’t know exactly how it will play into my life just yet, whether it will become a bigger priority or not. I just know I definitely want it to be a part of my life somehow. I like that dance is one of my passions, but not my focus and I’d like to keep it that way. Q: What would you suggest to other dancers? A: Take as many classes as you can and perform as much as you can. Also, I know that performing has given me my confidence. I feel that when you’re performing, you’re more aware of what you look like in terms of poise, stage presence, and technique. Performing is an amazing way to improve, so seize these opportunities.