Asia Education Foundation

Bollywood Inspiration

cover image: Dance Unit: Bollywood Inspiration

This unit lets students explore Bollywood song and dance. Students will get to recreate aspects of traditional Indian dance and experiment with gestural movement, vocabulary and established choreographic conventions. In their research and performances, students will identify and present both traditional and contemporary aspects of the Bollywood genre. They will experience first-hand examples of global cultural fusion.



Unit Overview

Stage of schooling

Lower or Middle Secondary

Learning focus

Dance and Media


  • Da5 Students explore, adapt and perform dance works from one or more countries in Asia that explore people's beliefs and values.
  • Da6 Students investigate the spiritual, social and cultural contexts of dance works from one or more countries in Asia.
  • Da7 Students choreograph and perform dance works demonstrating an understanding of
  • conventions and techniques used in or influenced by the practice of dance in Asia.
  • Da8 Students research and analyse the stylistic, technical and aesthetic features of traditional and contemporary dance works performed within or influenced by a culture in Asia.
  • Me7.1 Students explore and synthesise traditional and contemporary sounds, images and themes to design and construct a media text about people in or from Asia.
  • Me8.1 Students examine and discuss the features of media texts that locate them in particular societies, cultures and times.

Focus questions

  • To what extent can movement be understood on a global level?
  • What are the conventions of Bollywood choreography?
  • What happens when movement is created to match specific lyrics?
  • What do we mean by the terms 'tradition' and 'popular culture'?
  • What is 'cultural fusion'?

Extension questions

  • How do different cultures/mediums tell similar stories?
  • What is the role of a film choreographer?
  • What examples exist of fusion of Asian and Western cultures within the film genre?


This unit gives students opportunities to explore the Bollywood genre. After analysing this screenbased form of dance, students recreate aspects of traditional Indian dance and experiment with gestural movement, vocabulary and established choreographic conventions. Through their research and performance, students identify and present traditional and contemporary aspects of this genre. They explore the impact and influence of cultures as they experience examples of global cultural 'fusion'.


This unit can be a part of a longer investigation or form a study in itself. Ideally, students should be able to explore the genre through both physical and theoretical engagement. Although each dance sequence should be viewed within the context of the whole film, teachers should be aware that many of these films are quite lengthy and that film clips of most dance sequences can be found on YouTube. Each of these activities could be undertaken in a single lesson or could be developed over a much longer period. Choreographic tasks may require the teacher to provide scaffolded subtasks to ensure successful outcomes for all students.

Note to teachers

The term 'Bollywood' formally describes a specific part of the multimillion dollar Indian film-making industry based in Mumbai. More than 800 feature films are produced in India each year. Most films are produced in Hindi (with subtitles) while some have been produced in English or dubbed into other Indian languages if they prove to be popular. Bollywood film and dance movements are becoming increasingly popular with Australia's South Asian community and within mainstream pop culture.

Bollywood films have a style of their own and are interspersed with song and dance sequences. While these may seem out of context to the new viewer, they are an integral part of this genre and the success of these films can often depend on the quality of the song and dance sequences. Dance choreography will vary from more 'traditional' Indian dance to sequences which are strongly influenced by western dance forms.

The films listed are rated as PG (parental guidance is recommended for persons under 15 years), however for students younger than fifteen, it should be possible to select the appropriate dance scenes (as described below).

The National Geographic website has a very accessible multimedia 'Behind the Scenes' account by an American photographer which might serve as a useful introduction to the Bollywood genre. The website 'Bollywhat' provides useful insights into common dance gestures and techniques used in several films studied in this unit. See the 'Links' section for a comprehensive list of websites.

Plot synopses of the two Bollywood films used extensively in this unit can be found on Resource sheets 3 and 4.



  • DVD player

Videos OR YouTube downloads:

  • Karan Johar, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham … 210 mins
  • Sarat Chandra, Devdas 184 minutes



  • Gurinder Chadha, Bride and Prejudice 107 minutes
  • Aditya Chopra, Mohabbatein 216 minutes
  • Gurinder Chadha, Bend It Like Beckham 108 minutes
  • Voices and Visions from India CD-ROM, 2003, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.


  • Austen, Jane, 1813, Pride and Prejudice.

Further reading

Chakravorty, Pallabi, 2007, Bells of Change: Kathak Dance, Women, and Modernity in India, Seagull Books, Calcutta.