Founder of Adaa Dance Academy in Tustin Brings Love of Bollywood to O.C.

Apra Bhandari is the founder of Adaa Dance Academy.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

How did you get into Bollywood dancing?
I grew up in New York and went to Cornell University. I was part of their Indian dance team. After that, I decided to go back to India (where I was born) to pursue acting and film production and direction. Bollywood, the Indian film industry, is based in Bombay (Mumbai). I did that for six years and then got married and moved to Orange County.

How did you start teaching?
While I was pregnant with my first baby, I thought I’d start teaching dance classes. I started with putting a flyer in our cultural center and (taught) two kids in my living room, and that went on for quite some time. In January, we got our own dance studio in Tustin. We had a grand opening and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, we had to close down mid-March and start virtual classes.

How has the transition been?
It requires double the energy to keep the kids engaged. But whether we do it in person or virtually, we’re still going to have a good time.

Favorite form of dance?
I have trained in Kathak, which is kind of an equivalent to ballet; it’s an Indian classical dance form. My journey has really been Kathak and Kathak-related Bollywood. The way Kathak works is there are a lot of facial expressions that you use, and your footwork has to be really strong. There’s the perfect combination of grace and strength.

Main goal as a Bollywood teacher?
To really show our South Asian community and non-South Asian community how amazing Bollywood is. I think everyone needs to try it once in their lifetime to really understand how magical it is.

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