Last week, I was partway through a school visit when the class we were observing moved for a PE lesson. Grumpily, I trudged along to the hall and set myself up for what I expected to be an hour of watching children pretend to be trees (other people did this in primary school as well, right?) only to find that things have changed!
The teacher put on a projector and brought up a video of a man on Youtube performing basic Bhangra moves. The children watched the video and followed the moves…. or rather the children jumped around like wild things – grinning from ear to ear. It honestly looked like the most fun ever. I looked over at my colleague Rob, both amazed at the sight before us. ‘B for Bhangra?’, he said – and so it was.
The Bhangra class I went to takes place in a Community Centre in Reading – the type of place you probably went to Brownies / Scouts. Walking in I saw that the cohort was massively diverse – old and young, multi-ethnic, various levels of fitness – and all seemed happy to see a new face. I have never before felt so welcome at an exercise class.
Rajeev, the instructor, explained to us that Bhangra is a dance to celebrate the Harvest and so should be bouncy and joyful; giving thanks. Rajeev himself seemed both bouncy and joyful and I found myself nodding along and smiling as he spoke. His obvious enthusiasm for the dance was infectious and, following my PE experience, I was excited anyway – Could it possibly live up to expectations? Would I even be able to follow the moves? Or keep up with the rest of the class?
The answer – Yes, Yes and thrice Yes!! Like Aikido, the instructor used the traditional name for each new move, but (unlike last week) he then took us through each one slowly – starting with the feet and then adding in arm movements. We then did the steps in time with the music. Once practised, each new step was added on to the routine so that, at the end of the lesson, we could do 7 steps linked together into a 90 second routine.
I don’t want to be hyperbolic here but… I’m pretty sure I’ve found my calling – I was born to Bhangra dance!!
OK…. maybe not, but that’s certainly how I felt as I skipped out of the class towards the car yesterday. Looking at it objectively, in the cold light of day, I think I did an alright job. I didn’t pick up all the moves straight away but neither did I feel like I was lagging behind or stumbling about out of rhythm. Interestingly, I don’t think I would’ve worried even if I had been struggling. The class didn’t feel competitive at all – even when Rajeev said he would be naming a ‘Dancer of the week!’.
Each time I successfully managed to transition between steps I beamed like the Cheshire cat. Completing the whole routine without mistakes left me overjoyed. Rajeev kept shouting for us to ‘Smile!’ but I didn’t need telling – I was, like the children in the PE class, grinning from ear to ear.
Was it a workout? My sweaty face and aching muscles suggest that it was – after all, I was energetically hopping from one foot to the other for an hour. It was more active than some aerobics classes I have been to and infinitely more enjoyable.
You can probably guess my conclusions – Bhangra is Bhan-great! Bhan-tastic even!! I genuinely feel sad that it is unlikely I’ll be able to go to this class again and am definitely going to look one up in Bristol for when I’m home.
This is exactly what I was hoping would happen when I started Alphabettering myself – that I would find something I really enjoyed but that I likely wouldn’t have tried otherwise. And I’m only on the letter ‘B’ – imagine what other surprises there are still to come! Any new activity will have a hard task trying to better this one though – I loved it.