But five minutes before class I still didn’t know what to expect. The mystery of Bhangra was about to be dispelled.
Ghodke began the class and showed little mercy. This session — the third of five — began with a recap of a previously-learned routine and moved rapidly into two new routines.
Within minutes, I could feel my heart pounding.
I jumped around. I swung my arms. I bounced my shoulders. The entire class laughed and stumbled over tricky moves that Ghodke added during the warm-up.
After the warm-up routine, I rested and told the dancer beside me that I didn’t think it was too difficult — but class had barely started and I realized that I had spoken too soon.
The second routine picked up the pace. Each move became more like the few tricky moves in the warm-up. During the first full run-through of the routine, I struggled to catch my breath and keep up with Ghodke and the other dancers.
So, I thought — this is Bhangra.
Bhangra is completely its own style of dance — it’s full of jumping and rhythmic pulsing, and unlike more Western dances, movements highlight the beat rather than follow it.
In jazz, dancers follow the music’s beat. In lyrical, sometimes music isn’t even needed.
But Bhangra needs music, and the music needs to have a prominent beat.
The jumps and bounces fell at a specific time. As a group, we created a sound effect to the music, much like a tap or step class.
In addition to the basic bouncing and jumping, Ghodke added intricate arm movements. The motions were quick and — since I wasn’t used to the pace — I stumbled once or twice, clapping off-beat and raising the left arm when I should have raised the right.
The third dance had a slower pace, but the movements were still complex, with higher jumps and more turns.
But by 7 p.m., we had mastered each of the three routines Ghodke taught.
The hardest part was still to come. Learning one 30-second routine isn’t too difficult. Learning three such routines isn’t that bad either. But the final boot camp test was to perform each of the three routines in a row — not just once, but twice.
I jumbled my movements and got off-beat during the first run-through. The second try was a little more successful.
I jumped, stomped, bounced and felt a little ridiculous while flailing my arms. But I stayed on beat and managed to finish each routine on the right foot.
My lungs cleared and my heart still thumping, I left the Student Recreation Center for the night, confident in my ability to dance the traditional Indian dance.
But my boot camp isn’t over — I still have two more sessions I’d like to attend.
_Editor’s note: Staff writer Carson Fish took part in Bhangra Elite’s Bhangra Boot Camp on Sunday, Oct. 3. _
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