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Indianapolis non-profit dance organization teaches more than steps

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Posted at 1:14 AM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 01:14:59-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Bollywood. Belly Dance. Tai Chi. Capoeira. Embodie. Those are just a handful of the classes offered by the Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective or IMAC.

The diversity, not just in style, but culturally, is no accident.

"We're really trying to lean into programming that is non-western, non-European derived dance idioms," IMAC executive director Lauren Curry said. "I think especially in Indiana, there's not even a knowledge that these cultural forms exist and so we're trying to create more awareness and demand for those forms."

Part of that mission means students learn more than dance steps.

Usha Sirimalle is a Bollywood instructor. The dance form is rooted in India's Bollywood movie industry.

"I kind of use it as a channel to teach the culture and also the traditions," Sirimalle, who is originally from India, said. "There is a kind of story behind each dance and all that, so when I'm teaching I kind of like, share those aspects of it as well."

Teaching and respecting the culture is also a priority for Liz Wray, IMAC's community engagement coordinator and belly dance instructor.

"When you come to my class it's very important to me that you understand how middle eastern movement is different from western movement," Wray said. "Also, the huge cultural aspect of it is very important as well, so giving you some history."

Another major component of IMAC's mission is providing a welcoming, non-competitive environment where everyone and anyone feels comfortable dancing and moving their bodies.

In her more than a decade-and-a-half teaching belly dance, Wray has worked with all kinds of students.

"My oldest student was well into her 70s, my youngest was in kindergarten" she said. "I've had people who have had health issues and things like that, and I've had people who have come to me and they have absolutely no sense of rhythm."

But those perceived obstacles are not a barrier at IMAC.

"One of the great things about learning something new is you kind of build on these skills," Wray said.

Curry stressed, "it's not about what you look like or how much experience you have, it's just about are you curious, do you want to move your body, then you're in the right place."

Most importantly, IMAC instructors want their classes to bring you joy.

"I call this my happy place," Sirimalle said. "I do have students who have been taking classes for years, like five years or something, they've been signing up for session after session and they enjoy everything about it."

"We want to have fun, like dance should be fun ultimately," Wray said.

IMAC's in-person classes are at the Basile Opera Center on North Pennsylvania Street and starting in March, at the Garfield Park Arts Center. Virtual classes are also offered.

If cost is a barrier, the organization offers financial assistance through its Movement Subsidy Fund.

To register for classes and learn more about everything the Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective has to offer, go to indymovementarts.org.