Bollywood beauty: Carmel’s Archana Thaker teaches Indian movie-style dance

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By Mark Ambrogi

As Bollywood dancing has gained momentum in pop culture, Archana Thaker couldn’t help but be swept up in the craze.

“Classical dance has always been my favorite. That’s what I trained in, and that’s what developed my love for dance,” Thaker said. “But I do enjoy doing Bollywood. It’s a nice workout. It keeps me physically active. It keeps you in touch with the culture. I enjoy whichever one I’m doing.”

Bollywood dance was influenced by the Hindi language movie industry in India where dancing is a staple. Thaker describes the Bollywood style as a fusion of India traditional and classical dance with influences of jazz, hip-hop and modern dance.

The 39-year-old Thaker, who moved to the United States from India in 1994, started the Aradhana Institute of Dance in Indianapolis in 1996. Thaker, who now teaches and lives in Carmel, will be part of The Center for the Performing Arts’ Dance Discovery Series, instructing students in Bollywood dance at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at The Tarkington. The class will be held ahead of The Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India on Nov. 1 at The Palladium.

Julia Shildmyer-Heighway came up with the idea of offering instructional sessions before a related show at The Palladium. Bollywood is the second of six in the series. Thaker met Shildmyer-Heighway several years ago.

“She told me about this dance series, and I thought it was great way to expose what we do,” Thaker said. “It gives the people an idea what to expect and get more used to it.”

Carmel High School junior Sanjana Sribastava has been dancing with Thaker since she was three years old.

“I do enjoy Bollywood a lot,” Sribastava said. “I enjoy both [classical and Bollywood]. This (Bollywood) is more energetic and fun. The other is more technique. I love the [Bollywood] movies. That’s where I learned the language as well.”

Sribastava said she sees Bollywood and classical dance as a lifelong activity.

Pike High School sophomore Anisha Mahenthiran has been dancing in the Bollywood style for 11 years.

“It’s made me the person I am today,” Mahenthiran said. “It’s taught me to live an organized life. It’s more of my stress reliever now.”

Avon High School senior Priya Shields likes Bollywood dance but prefers classical dance.

“The Bollywood style is energetic, and it’s somewhere you can let go and go crazy,” Shields said. “You don’t have to control your movements a lot like you do in classical.”

While most of her students are from Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville, Thaker has students coming from Greenwood, Anderson and Avon. The girls range from ages four to 18 and the boys from five to 12 or 13, Thaker said.

“Once they get to the high school level, the boys are more into sports,” Thaker said. “For the girls, it starts with the parents wanting them to connect with the culture, but then they start liking it.”

Thaker, who works in the credit department for Pedcor Bancorp, teaches in her spare time.

“It’s me wanting to share what I’ve learned and the kids wanting to learn,” Thaker said. “Keeping the culture alive keeps me going.”

Thaker teaches classes on Sundays at Revel Fitness, 13720 N. Meridian St., Carmel. She teaches classical dance forms in smaller groups at her house on Tuesdays.

For more, visit aradhanadance.com.

Meet Archana Thaker

Personal: Married to Sumit. Has daughter, Aarna, 6, and son Arryav, almost 2. Her mother and father live in Indianapolis and she has two sisters in Chicago. Has bachelor’s degree in finance and with a minor in international studies from Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She has an MBA from Butler University.

Favorite way to relax: “Listening to music and choreographing. To some people choreographing is work, but to me, it is my relaxed mode.”

Favorite Carmel restaurants:  The Pint Room, Matt the Miller’s in Carmel and Divvy’s.

Favorite vacation spot: “My husband and I like going to Cancun because we just go there and do nothing.”

Dance Discovery Series

Remaining events are:

  • Indian Bollywood, 6:30 p.m. at The Tarkington
  • Country line dancing, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at The Palladium
  • Ballet mime, 6:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at The Tarkington
  • Irish step dance, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at The Palladium
  • Zydeco, 6:30 p.m. March 2 at The Palladium
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