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Bhangra instructors Gurpreet Sian (left) Raakhi Sinha try out some moves in one of the new dance studios at the School for the Contemporary Arts at Woodward’s.

Learn bhangra dancing for credit

September 9, 2010

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Bhangra dancers performed during the 2010 Winter Olympics and the opening for the recent Canadian Juno Awards. Now, SFU students can learn this popular Indian dance form and earn credit for it.

Called Popular Dance—Introduction to Modern and Traditional Bhangra—the course begins this fall through the School for the Contemporary Arts at Woodward’s.

"This class will appeal to both bhangra enthusiasts and beginners. Students will learn traditional bhangra moves, modern stunts, facial expressions, and lyrical translations," says instructor Raakhi Sinha. "Bhangra can be very theatrical and always entertaining. Modern bhangra has elements of Bollywood-style dance. The charm of the art form lies in its charisma, facial expressions, and personal style."

Bhangra is a celebration dance in Punjab that was traditionally performed by farmers during the harvest season. The men took moves they did in the fields and turned them into dance moves. They rejoiced by singing songs about their life, families, and work.

Today, there is a huge competitive bhangra dancing community in the U.S. and Canada. Popular TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars have brought bhangra to primetime audiences.

The SFU course explores the roots of traditional bhangra and the competitive modern version of the dance in North America. Students will present a final project demonstrating the use of traditional bhangra movements in their own sequences, plus participate in a group performance with the class.

Sinha says bhangra is accessible to everyone because it focuses on large, energetic movements and not complex choreography.

"No experience is necessary—just come with an open heart and we’ll take care of the rest," says Sinha, who is also artistic director for the South Asian Arts Society. "Oh, and be willing to sweat."

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