Bhangra workshop educates students on lively and cultural dance techniques

Members of Gajjda Bhangra, a competitive dance team on campus, gathered in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom on Sunday Sept. 17 to teach potential members more about their organization. A circle filled with eager people formed to learn dance moves and to be taught more about the culture surrounding the dance.

Bhangra is a traditional form of dance that originates from India and Pakistan. While it was originally performed by men in the farming districts of Punjab during harvest festivals, it has grown more inclusive throughout the years and is currently practiced by women as well. 

Bhangra eventually became a regular part of other social gatherings, like weddings. Throughout the years, the word “bhangra” has evolved; it now refers to both the energetic dancing patterns it features and to its eclectic musical pieces.

When the team was assembled in the ballroom, they got up on their feet and taught attendees high-energy dance moves. A dance captain noted that while western dance forms emphasize upward motions, Bhangra tends to use downward motions instead. 

One move performed was the pataka, which is an explosive movement that began with each person bringing their arms into two diagonal lines while using Bedi taps before performing a move that looked like pulling a rope. The move was then finished off with a clap.

“My favorite move is [the pakata] because it is so powerful” Bhangra member junior Julia Mintz said in a phone interview. “You are directly facing the audience and the name of the move translates to fireworks. I like it because it is so energetic and so explosive.” 

Another move taught was faslaan, which means flowing. This move is a gentle, yet oddly powerful motion. The faslaan, which is a hopping step, incorporates a graceful swaying motion. 

To do faslaan, the dancers had to raise their legs behind themselves while swinging their hips back and forth. They kept one of their hands in front of their chest and the other by their side, all the while lifting their arms around their heads. The step was a lot more difficult than it appeared to be since it requires a significant amount of airtime and coordination to be executed properly. 

A third move that was taught was the crossover. It is as simple as it sounds; dancers begin by picking up their left foot and crossing it over their right foot. 

After the initial dance moves were taught, the captains led the group through the spring semester’s tryout track. While it was shorter, they informed new members that a typical Bhangra track is a lengthy eight minutes long. 

Dancing is certainly a terrific way to get a cardio workout without trudging all the way to the gym. The tryout track incorporated many of the new moves that attendees had been taught earlier in the day. 

When the routine had been perfected, the workshop was called to an end, allowing the team to prepare for the tryouts that occurred later that night.

In addition to their involvement in competitions in the New York/Tri-State area, the Gajjda Bhangra team holds workshops and fundraisers throughout the year; they also hold many performances for the student body to enjoy. The group’s lively performances usually attract a broad range of people.

“I was really hesitant [at first] to try it, but that’s not the kind of team that we are,” Bhangra member junior Emily Spina said. “Everyone is really inclusive and you don’t have to have any dance experience so pretty much if it looks like fun, definitely try out.”

Joining Gajjda Bhangra is an excellent way to get more involved in the school. Members are familiarized with the Punjab culture and are given new ways to express themselves through dance. Additionally, no previous dance experience is required to audition for the team. 

If Bhangra is of interest to you, keep an eye out for tryout announcements for Spring 2018.u