t’s fun and upbeat, and for fans who swear by it, it’s a calorie-busting total body workout minus the drudgery of a gym environment. Bhangra, the popular traditional dance form from Punjab, that requires you to simultaneously hop on the ball of your feet and extend your legs to music beats, is gaining popularity globally. And the UAE is no exception.
A growing number of dance crews are helping spread the frenzy, many of them extolling the health benefits of bhangra. Some, like the Pure Bhangra group, conduct regular workshops while also performing with their ever-growing members at various events.
Originating from the Majha region of Punjab, the traditional dance’s appeal has been given new twists, with pumping beats and a whole lot of pizzazz added to the mix.
Gulf News tabloid! sets out to match steps with UAE bhangra crews, and find out what the frenzy is all about.
In an attempt to re-establish their roots in a land away from home, Pure Bhangra (PB) was founded by 25-year-old Sikh fashion blogger and entrepreneur Hardeep Singh. Established in 2011, the team now comprises of 22 dancers, who are all known to take workshops along with Singh.
What motivated you to take bhangra workshops in UAE?
Hardeep Singh: I think bhangra is a dance form that has always been associated with partying and uncles grooving their beer bellies at weddings and parties. But bhangra is way more than just that. I want people to understand the essence of the stamina one needs to possess for this dance form, which I realised can be done if I opened the ground to everybody. That’s how I decided to start our very own workshop series by the name ‘PB MAX’ last year and there has been no looking back since then.
How long does a workshop last for?
Singh: Every workshop lasts for three hours. With a few mini rest breaks in between.
Where all in the UAE are these workshops being taken and do you have any future plans on expanding?
Singh: PB conducts workshops every month for everyone, irrespective of age, nationality and gender. We started off with Dubai and now we’ve expanded to Abu Dhabi and Ajman as well. We do plan on bringing the workshops to JLT and Dubai Marina very soon.
A group of middle-class Indian expats come together to share the joy of Punjabi folklore, led by founder Gurjeet Singh, who works as a machine operator. The team conducts weekly bhangra classes for people from all age groups. The classes are taken twice a week, every Monday from 8-9pm and Friday from 1-2pm.
What does bhangra mean to you and your team?
Gurjeet Singh: Bhangra is not just a dance- form for us, it is an expression of love. We come from middle-class families and try to find happiness in small gestures. Dance makes us feel special. Most of us spend our weekends together either performing at events or taking classes.
What kind of a response have you received from your participants?
Singh: I started taking classes last year in Burjuman and I’ve received a very positive response. Initially not many were attending, but over time I noticed an amazing progress.
FIT BHANGRA, ABU DHABI
Fit Bhangra was founded by Jassi Rehnsi and his sister Preeti Rehnsi. It was when the two noticed themselves sweating and out of breath after every performance they decided to start their fitness class: ‘Burn calories the Bhangra Way!’
When and where did you start taking classes in Abu Dhabi?
Jassi Rehnsi: We started taking fitness bhangra classes at a studio in the heart of Abu Dhabi exactly three months ago.
Why do you think bhangra could be your gateway to a better body?
Rehnsi: Bhangra is incredibly infectious. It manages to target every part of your body in ways that you might not even know of. The dynamic duo of Punjabi music and bhangra movements could result in an effective fat-burning and toning workout.
— Pavneet Kaur is an intern with Gulf News.
HOW TO BHANGRA
Here are four moves you can practice to help you get in step with the pros:
1. Name of move: Punjab
How to do it: Start with the step named after the place of origin of this dance: ‘Punjab’. Stand upright with both your arms extended out at shoulder level. Stretch your fingers out in a way that they form an L with your thumb, with your palms facing outwards. Position your legs apart from each other. Since every step in bhangra starts with your left leg raise your left leg up, with your knee bending almost up to your waist and then try bouncing on the ball of your right foot to tap down your left foot on the opposite side.
Now try to do the same bouncing on your left foot to raise your right leg up and then tap it down on the opposite side.
Pro tip: Lift your knee higher for a cleaner and more effective movement.
2. Name of move: Double Chaffa
How to do it: Start with both your legs positioned apart and your arms extended below your waist. Now bounce on your right leg to pull your left leg in on the side, in a way almost ready to kick outwards. Balance on the ball of your right foot and kick your left leg out. Push your arms out, exposing your palms in time with the kick. Repeat the same kick with your right leg, and extend your arms out in time with the kick once again. Continue doing the step with alternate kicks and the same hand movements.
Pro tip: Try to subtly incline your body a little away from the kick in order to achieve a robust kick and posture.
3. Name of move: Baithka
Start with sitting down on the ball of your feet. Balance your posture by straightening your back, once you’ve done so extend your arms under your bent knees. Pull your body weight up in a way that you feel the stretch on your calf muscles. As you push yourself in this position, your arms are in the same position as before, i.e. extended under your hips. Now bring your hips back down to the first posture. As you bring your body down push your arms upwards. Start with six sit-ups and go to as many as you can.
Pro tip: Keep your back as straight as possible for a powerful sit-up.
4. Name of move: Bedi
Stand with your legs hip-width apart. The leg movement is quite basic with alternate taps in a left-right-left manner. Start with tapping your left leg down. With every tap down clap your hands right in front of your chest. Continue with tapping your right foot down and clapping in front your chest and so on.
Pro tip: Try making some noise! With every clap, shout ‘hoye’. It’ll motivate you to stay stronger till the end of the dance routine.