Star Student: Bollywood Dancer
Quarry Lane senior Swati Patel shares her talent with her community.
Three years ago, Quarry Lane Upper School senior and San Ramon resident Swati Patel took her first dance class. Today, she is part of a dance company and teaches 10 classes per week. She was also filmed dancing for an upcoming Bollywood movie and established a dance team at her high school. Next for her is graduation, a move to Philadelphia, and the pursuit of a degree from Temple University.
Diablo talked to Swait about her Bollywood debut, choreographers, and the TV show Dance Moms.
Q: Why did you start a dance team?
A: I started my own [team] because I was already a dancer outside of school, so I thought I might as well open up my own genre inside of school.
We are a hip-hop based team. I made it very small at first; it was a very select group of people that I knew could dance and could pick up the steps quickly.
I wanted it to be a surprise. No one knew we were practicing, and I wanted to have that surprise factor show people that we could do it—that there are dancers in this school, and that we’re not just a school that’s based off of science and math and engineering.
Our first dance was to “Partition’ by Beyoncé,” and it was great.
Q: You’re also part of the dance company at Riar Academy of Performing Arts and you teach various Bollywood dance classes. What’s your teaching technique?
A: I have definitely learned that you have to teach to the student. I have to always figure out whether to explain the hands first or the feet first—or both at the same time.
Q: What is the hardest part about Bollywood dancing?
A: Bollywood dancing has a lot of attitude and high-energy movements. So, if I’m doing a simple dance, it’s really easy for me to remember to smile and give that attitude.
In one dance, I had to play coy, and it was very hard for me to feel the coyness. When it comes to facial expressions and expressing the dance—not just through the movements but through your body language—I find that to be the most difficult thing.
Q: How did you get the opportunity to dance in a Bollywood movie?
A: The company owner came to the advanced team [at the academy], which I was on at the time, and asked if anyone could be a part of the dance. I think he selected everyone he knew could put the time and the effort to be a decent dancer during the shoot, and people he knew could stick with it.
Q: What was it like to perform in front of a camera?
A: I was there on Sunday at five in the morning getting my makeup done. [During shooting] there was a lot of pause, go, pause, go. We had to memorize [the dance] like crazy, and they changed things on the day of the shoot.
It was an experience to remember, that’s for sure!
Q: Will you teach dance after high school?
A: I don’t know if I would continue to teach dance, but I have been looking at Bollywood teams in Philadelphia. I want to join a team for my college because they push you to a crazy extent, and I want to be pushed. I want to see where I can go as a dancer.
Q: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
A: Watching Dance Moms. Everyone always judges me, and I can see why. [But] it's just such an interesting show, especially for a dancer.