How did Bollylicious come about?

The founding members consist of three young Belgian dancers, Laura Neyskens, Tom Decuyper and Ayla Joncheere first met each other in 2001 during a Rajasthani Kalbeliya dance workshop in their hometown Ghent, Belgium. Besides training in multiple dance styles (Indian and other styles, such as salsa, contemporary dance and flamenco), their taste for Indian dance remained common ground.

After 10 years of performing in several productions, they decided it was time to develop a project of their own. With Indian dance as a common ground, they founded the dance collective Bollylicious in 2013. Julie Thomas joined the Bollylicious team in 2018.

The name of Bollylicious (a contraction of “Bollywood” and “Delicious”) was consciously chosen when they founded the collective. Not so much because they want to do Bollywood dance, but rather because they really needed a commercially familiar name to present themselves to the European market.

The word Bollywood is basically the only word that connects India and staged performances in an obvious way to most non-Indians. However, their intension was never to be a Bollywood dance group as such, they surpass the idea of doing Bollywood only.

Their objective is to present Indian dance in a varied and original way. In their work, they do present Bollywood, but they also perform multiple Indian folk dances and (semi-)classical dance, and integrate multiple other non-Indian dance styles. Thus, they interpret Bollywood, not only as dances that are related to Hindi cinema, but they also associate with it for its liberal hybridity in the positive sense.

Bollywood on a mission

With Bollylicious, the team intends to uplift Indian dance to a professional level, standing side-by-side other international dance projects. They focus on large accessibility and want to represent more diversity in the current international dance scene.

As European audiences are not very familiar with Indian dance, it's a challenge to present India's rich traditional culture, by remaining accessible for non-experts without being merely exotic, and by being equally interesting for spectators with a high knowledge of Indian dance.

They pay much attention to staging of multiple dance styles and their professionally elegant execution. From their experiences in the international dance scene, they observed a lack of versatile and professional dance companies in Europe to present Indian dance. Therefore their first goal was, and still is, to contest the narrow-mindedness and monotonous representation of dance in European professional settings.

Bollylicious is a very conscious balancing act whereby they try to be intercultural mediators through dance. In their performances, they fuse and present Indian dance in a contemporary way while respecting its traditions. They aim at being original and simultaneously they reach out by being accessible to audiences. They continue to fight for international respect for Indian dance.

The journey

Their performances boast success from Paris to New Delhi. They were spotted as uprising talent in the media. They were the first company to introduce Bollywood to the Belgian and Dutch television on shows such as Dansdate (2014) and So You Think You Can Dance (2015).

Supported by the Belgian choreographer Alain Platel (Les Ballets C de la B) they are vying for a place to represent the Indian dance culture on a professional platform which is dominated by Western Contemporary Dance.

 

They produced their first production ‘Bombay Express’ which has toured over 20 theatres in Belgium by now, and also travelled to the Netherlands, New York and India. Their second production ‘Sitara’ premiered last year and is also touring internationally.  

India

Bollylicious takes great pride in receiving respect and appreciation from audiences around the globe. They find it of utmost importance to receive appreciation from the country that inspired them so much, India.

They are excited about the strong support of Indian audiences in India as well as in the diaspora: Bollylicious performed for India’s prime minister Shri Narendra Modi, they performed at the Jaipur Literature Festival and they have been invited by multiple royalties of Rajasthan, including Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur.

At the same time they are promoted by Belgian institutions as pioneers in intercultural artistic work between Belgium and India: e.g. Bollylicious performed for the Belgian King and Queen in Delhi and for Europe Day in the presence of the Bollywood legend, Shri Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai. Being complimented by Mr. Bachchan, who straightaway came to meet them backstage after their show, was a very memorable experience for them.

Some highlighted credentials

  • Performance at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai in the presence of Sri Amitabh Bachchan. (May 2018 - India)

  • Performance for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his state visit in Brussels (March 2016 - Belgium)

  • Performance for the State Visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians to the Republic of India (November 2017 - India)

  • Private performance for His Excellency Gaj Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur (December 2016 - India)

  • Opening show at Jaipur Literature Festival - Rambagh Palace (January 2018 - India)

  • American Premiere at Battery Dance Festival in New York City, Manhatten (August 2017 - USA)

  • Performance for Bollywood star singer Sukhwinder Singh in Antwerp (May 2016 - Belgium)

  • Recording for the national TV channel Doordarshan (December 2017 - India) 

  • Multiple collaborations with and support of Jet Airways AMS (since their startup in Amsterdam December 2016)

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