Sunday, 12 June 2016

Hooray for Bollywood

There are many things that I have dreamed about doing over the years, but this was certainly not one of them. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be teaching a dance class.

A dance class.
Me with two left feet and no sense of balance.
And not just any dance class.
A bhangra dance class.

photo credit
For those of you who might not know--bhangra is a type of Punjabi folk dance (but bhangra also refers to the type of music that you folk dance to). You often see this type of dancing (albeit with a bit more razz-a-ma-tazz) in Bollywood films. It is great because it is as much a dance for men as it is for women.

So how did this white girl from Louisiana end up teaching Punjabi folk dancing in west Wales?
photo credit:

It's not like I have never done bhangra dancing before. When we lived in England I worked at a very multi-racial school and so we celebrated not only Christian holidays but also Muslim holidays. We always had an Eid party to celebrate the end of fasting for Ramadan. Someone also had a CD of bhangra and would teach some basic moves and we would boogie. But I never thought I would one day be leading a class teaching these moves myself.

Enter my friend Priya. We jokingly call her the great delegator. She gets a new idea and then makes it happen by getting other people to make it happen, if you know what I mean. She saw that there was a Bollywood dance class in Pembrokeshire was so taken by the bouncy music and joyful leaping about of the dancers she decided we needed to have a class here in Carmarthen. She wanted a class run by vegans to show that we were not all weak and sickly from lack of protein.

Then she decided that I should be the teacher. She badgered me for months and finally wore me down. I agreed I would look on youtube and see if there were some basic moves I could learn to copy. There were loads of great tutorials with beginner moves and my confidence grew. Then I found this fantastic app and I *knew* I could do it.

I practiced in our bedroom for a week or two trying to learn the moves and be able to coordinate my upper body and lower body. Then I listened to countless bhangra and Bollywood songs to find ones I liked in a variety of tempos. Next I practiced forming a routine and counting out loud and shouting out what the next move would be. This is NOT as easy as it looks when you see a fitness instructor do it. Priya's husband Tony burned us a CD and we were ready.

Our original plan was to offer it free in the park on a summer evening while there was plenty of light outside. This did not go as well as we had hoped because during our "opening night" we were harassed by a group of yobs (backwards slang for a rowdy, aggressive, violent young male) and then there was an incident. The yobs ran away, we called the police and one of our dancers went to hospital.

It was not what we expected.

But this did not deter us. We knew we had a good thing, we just needed to find an indoor venue that was safer. The very next night we were at an event watching the documentary Cowspiracy about the role of factory farming in greenhouse emissions (more on this soon) and we found the perfect venue.

So this week we tried again--with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm, not seen by many (to quote Henry Rollins of Black Flag) and it was bloody brilliant.

We had an even mix of male and female dancers attend (and no--before you ask--Spiderman was NOT one of them) and we had a blast. We were all a bit wonky with left and right issues and we did a lot of laughing. But we really raised our heart rates and sweated and danced joyfully to some bouncy music.

It was a boatload of fun.

So who knows--maybe I will get a qualification in exercise to music so I can be a proper teacher. We will see how it progressed, but until then we will just dance and have fun.
source: wikipedia


  1. Oh, you are such a love. I would have adored being in your class.

  2. my favorite line:
    So how did this white girl from Louisiana end up teaching Punjabi folk dancing in west Wales?