With new rhythms,moves and tempo,the traditional dance form has stepped out of youth festivals to emerge as an exercise and party item
As Happy Gill steps on to the floor in his traditional bhangra attire,his class of 20 students at Bodyzone Gym and Spa in Sector 8,Chandigarh,is all set for yet another foot-tapping,energetic and intense workout,albeit to the beats of the dhol and peppy Punjabi music. The former captain of DAVs bhangra team,Gill has designed the class,which is part of Dancercise,a concept tailored for people who want to shed kilos with the moves of bhangra,zumba and Bollywood. A bhangra practitioner for the last 15 years,Gill choreographs the steps in such a way that the dance helps burn maximum calories but the impact is low. The beats of the dhol,a mix of old and new Punjabi music and a combination of four Bhangra steps makes the entire experience increase your heart rate and excitement, shares Gill.
He agrees bhangra has gone places,beyond the stage of college youth festivals. The dancer recently choreographed sequences of the traditional dance for a wedding and a private party in the city. For the wedding,I trained a group of young boys and girls from the grooms side. They performed on the songs of Malkit Singh and were the showstoppers at the wedding, says Gill.
At a recent film promotion of I Am Singh at Hotel Mountview,a choreographed performance of bhangra one that complemented the pulse of the movie was a unique experience for the audience. Part of Andy Singhs film production company North Bioscope,the 150-member bhangra troupe performs in films,clubs,weddings and shows abroad. The base is traditional bhangra,but we blend the steps with contemporary dance forms and create our own music by mixing. The aim is to catch the pulse of the youth, explains Singh. He says,the fact that it is easy to follow the steps and the beats is what makes bhangra a big hit. Singh is now busy in the production of the film Bhangra Beat,which is based on music piracy and how musicians in villages never get any monetary benefits from the music they create.
Considered to be the Godfather of Bhangra in the region,Channi Singhs orchestra band,Alaap,made a ripple effect with its bhangra gigs and melodic Punjabi music in the 70s in the UK. Punjabi music was associated with the dhol,tumbi and ektara,whereas we were singing with the accordion,guitar and table. Our music was different,more stylised and melodic,one that combined western instruments and Punjabi folk, reminisces Singh,who made a modest beginning at Maler Kotla,Punjab. From performing at gurudwaras to gigs,constant reinvention of the dance form and music has made him regale audiences at Madison Square Garden in the US,Royal Albert Hall in London,Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover,Alaap bagged the Guinness Record for being the longest running Bhangra band.
Hosting regular bhangra workshops in Chandigarh,Chandigarh Institute of Performing Arts Shyam Juneja,describes the dance form as Punjabi tadka,the appeal of which,he says,is timeless. With a few improvisations,its a dance that is world-famous, says Juneja,who designs bhangra training modules that cater to international students. Our recent festival,Rhythm of India,had groups from abroad performing bhangra at Tagore Theatre,with an Australian drummer even learning how to beat the dhol. He did a memorable jugalbandi too, says Juneja,who also uses the dance form and music in his plays.