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Rachel Levin
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Key Club

The Bollywood Follies

by Rachel Levin
February 28, 2004
Key Club
9039 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

The Bollywood Follies

Review by Rachel Levin
February 28, 2004

Event: The Bollywood Follies, part of the new monthly series, Lurex
Where: Key Club
9039 Sunset
West Hollywood, CA
Cover: $20

"What's wrong with Hollywood movies?" the MC asked the crowd at Saturday's inaugural performance of the Bollywood Follies. He wasn't talking about the excessive sex, violence, and general inanity that critics usually complain about in major studio films. To those who attended the Follies, the answer was obvious. "No dance numbers!"

Bollywood is the moniker of Tinseltown's counterpart in India. If you thought Los Angeles churned out more movies than you could possibly see in any given year, consider this: India makes more feature films annually than any other nation on the planet, and four times as many as Hollywood. But here's the kicker…they're ALL musicals!

And with good reason. The music of Bollywood - which has gained popularity in America in recent years through movies like "Monsoon Wedding" and pop songs by artists from Sting to Jay-Z that incorporate Indian samples - screams out for riotous dance numbers. It is an exotic, intoxicating combination of traditional Hindi chanting and instrumentation with influences from vintage rock to techno. For Saturday night's show, The Bombay Rhythm Connection band played a sort of "greatest hits" of psychedelic '60s and '70s Bollywood, using wah-wah pedals, fuzz guitar, heavy percussion, horns, and strings to recreate this smorgasbord sound. Singer Sonya Sionne's powerful voice and bittersweet melodies sailed over the instruments, and she was perhaps the highlight of the show.

The styles of dance performed at the Follies were as eclectic as the elements of music that the band incorporated. First and foremost, the Bollywood Follies is a burlesque show, part of a new series of supper club shows with burlesque themes called "Lurex" by producer Rita D'Albert. Accordingly, nearly all the numbers included a variety of bejeweled temptresses skillfully using erotic dance and belly dance moves to shed ever more layers of costume. One of the acts was a pair of women who performed in nothing but blue body paint, glitter, and bangle bracelets.

Though skin exposure was the common denominator, each act centered around its own dramatic scenario, just as one might see in a Bollywood flick of soap opera proportions. In one skit, a couple received a cha-cha lesson from a highly erotic female instructor. In another, a Bollywood rock star fronted an extravaganza of chorus girls doing '60s shag and pony. The free-for-all of dance in these skits accurately recreated the surreal world of Bollywood cinema, where at any moment, anything goes.

It is, however, easy to burn out on this sort of glittering cheesiness. I must admit that I didn't last through the whole show. But it did inspire me to go home, break out my "Monsoon Wedding" soundtrack, and brush up on my belly dance moves (see related article, "Belly Dance in a Box," for tips). "Lurex" will offer new cabaret themes monthly, but somehow I think the burlesque without the Bollywood just wouldn't be as fun. What can I say? Hooray for Bollywood!

Bollywood Follies - Anything Goes
Photo courtesy of Rachel Levin

Bollywood Follies - Blue Dancers
Photo courtesy of Rachel Levin

Bollywood Follies - Ming Dynatease
Photo courtesy of Rachel Levin

Bollywood Follies - Singer Sonia
Photo courtesy of Rachel Levin

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