A little bit of  Bollywood (the world’s largest film factory) has landed in the Edinburgh Fringe and it brings with it a sampler introduction to the art form and some of the colour, dance and sounds that have made the Bollywood style such a global phenomenon.  A phenomenon that is currently growing in revenue at an average 10% per year.

This show was created to showcase India at the Shanghai Expo and since that has toured the globe with its infectious mixture of dance and rhythms.

The show is in three parts as follows.

Part 1. The Indian Wedding.  Here we get a brief glimpse of the almost obligatory wedding in any Bollywood film...boy meets girl, lavish wedding ceremony at the end.  This is as you would expect full of fabulous colour, music and dance.

Part 2. Indian Classical Dances.  This part introduces us to some of the classical forms of Indian dance that are the source material for what has become a unique Bollywood style.  This segment contains the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva and is fascinating to watch.  I am only sorry that my knowledge of the stories behind the dances is so poor that I am obviously missing so much here.

Part 3. Indian Folk Dances.  In this part we get a small idea of what a vast and divergent country India is as we are given some insight into regional dances including some performed at The Lord Ganesha Festival.  Again, I just wish I understood the subject matter more.

Ticket to Bollywood is just that.  The show is full of colour, wonderful dancers and wonderful sounds, but most of all it is full of incredible energy.  Watching the stances of the dancers you can see where so many other forms came from (they are very similar to classic martial arts forms at times).  Also, some of these forms and sounds to me are the source material for much of modern Hip-Hop.

There are a many interesting things to note in this show, and one of them is the female dancers.  Although from a distance it may look like some of the wonderful costumes are exposing a lot of flesh, the dancers are actually wearing full flesh-coloured body costumes.  Female modesty is preserved at all times, but it must make dancing in this show very hot.

A lot of the audience tonight were of Indian/Asian origin and speaking to a few people, this was an authentic show...not the sort put on for tourists.  To me, one of the highlights of the show was at the end when the dancers came into the audience and asked people to join them. Wonderful to watch some normally very reserved ladies out there enjoying the dance.

If there was for me one disappointment tonight though, it was that wonderful as the dancers are, the music was pre-recorded.  Don’t ask me why here, but although I cannot understand a word of the songs, the music and rhythms of India have always been one of my musical pleasures and I was really looking forward to seeing and hearing some live music in this show…maybe another time folks.

Still a great high energy show that brings a tiny slice of another culture to us, and it is a tribute to the strength of that culture that it has not (like so many have) been eroded or destroyed by the relentless invasion of western pop/MTV culture.  India and Bollywood are thriving examples of a completely different formal musical structure and musical sounds and I hope this world never loses that unique identity.


Review by

Tom King


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