Bend It Like Bollywood mixes fitness with Indian-inspired dance

Pavani Reddy, 30, of Ellicott City, started Bend It Like Bollywood in 2013. Its exercise-oriented dance classes, called Naach, draw from the iconic dance moves of the Indian film industry. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun video)

Sailaja Kilambi tried about every fitness class she could find online, from weight training to yoga and Pilates. Then, about three years ago, she found a Bollywood-style exercise class called Naach and thought she would give it a try.

“I thought dancing would be fun but because I had never danced before,” says the 42-year-old Ellicott City resident. “My family said ‘no way’ because they thought it would be embarrassing for me.”


But an instructor with Bend It Like Bollywood, the local business offering the classes, assured her no experience was necessary; fitness was the goal of the class, which draws from the iconic dance moves of the Indian film industry.

When Hannah Young, 27, of Jessup walks to her car, she’s paying attention to her surroundings. It’s a habit she learned when she started training in Krav Maga, a military fighting and self-defense program, in 2012.

Kilambi now takes classes weekly, seeing improvements in her body and emotional well-being.


“I’m more of a shy person to begin with. … These dance moves are the perfect combination of cardio, core strength, posture and flexibility, and I became much more confident in my body and dancing in front of others,” she says.

Pavani Reddy, 30, of Ellicott City started Bend It Like Bollywood in 2013. It was a childhood dream of hers.

“I would sit and watch these Bollywood dancers on the television when I was young, and I always knew that I wanted to go to the United States when I was done with my studies and teach our culture to those who haven’t experienced it,” says Reddy, who was born in India and moved to the U.S. in 2012.

Classes are taught at various community and fitness centers in Howard County. In addition to adult fitness classes, Bend It Like Bollywood instructors also teach traditional Bollywood dance for all ages.

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The fitness classes feature upbeat music — from folk and Bollywood tunes to songs fused with modern hits by musicians like Ed Sheeran and Major Lazer. Step-by-step chorography includes fast hip movements and even facial movements.

“You work your entire body, from your head and your shoulders all the way down to your toes,” Reddy says.

Ellicott City resident Joyce Mahabier says that she’s met new friends in the class and it feels like a chance to socialize while getting a full-body workout.

“You feel like you’re dancing and going out without having to get dressed up,” says Mahabier, 37. “It’s a blast dancing in your yoga pants while getting an incredible workout.”

Senior dance instructor Sharanyaa Pathumudi says that seeing new people learn the Bollywood moves makes teaching exciting.

“The music is so energetic and quirky, and the dance moves are so fun that it really gets everyone up on their feet and learning something new,” Pathumudi says.

For Theresa Franey, belting out some of her favorite alternative rock and pop songs makes her cycling class at Miss Fit, a women’s gym on Ellicott City’s Main Street, a little easier to navigate.

Naach with Bend It Like Bollywood

$45 for four classes, plus a one-time registration fee of $25. $20 per drop-in class.


Tuesdays at 7:15 p.m.

Kiddie Academy, 6534 Old Waterloo Road, Elkridge

Wednesdays at 8:15 p.m.

8488 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City

Saturdays at 9:15 a.m.

Maple Lawn Community Center, 7600 Maple Lawn Blvd., Fulton

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