I’m not much of a dancer, in fact I often refuse to dance because I’m both lazy and not coordinated enough to do it. Yet here in India, dancing and music are an integral part of people’s lives. With musical numbers being one of the iconic aspects of India’s film industry, Bollywood, people are compelled to learn the songs of their people at an early age.
Bhangra is one important aspect of Indian dances that originates in the Punjab region in what is now the border region of India and Pakistan. It is here that the traditional way of performing the dance in a circle during the harvest festival. In many ways bhangra is the Punjab’s de facto dance style as it is an integral part of many celebrations. Yet in the past few decades this energetic and fast paced dance has become a considerable part of Bollywood‘s dances. That is to say that even outside of the Punjab region, many Indians have come to accept the style as their own. To ad to this, the diaspora of Indian people from South Africa to the Caribbean, the UK to the U.S.and Canada have typically associated these dance styles as a way of maintaining ties to India. In modern times bhangra has become a synthesis of traditional styles with dance styles from abroad such as reggae and hip hop contributing to the spread of the dance overseas.
More generally Bollywood’s dances also incorporate varying dance styles from across the Indian subcontinent’s cultures as well as Middle Eastern dance styles. With almost 3/4ths of all music sales in the country coming directly from the selling of film based music, the industry is a very lucrative one. From television to the radio and of course films itself, music videos of people’s favorite artists are ubiquitous throughout India. Oftentimes they’re really weird and seemingly incomprehensible but they do the job of capturing people’s attention.
Socializing with people in India would often lead to trying to get me to participate in their favorite past time. Naturally as someone with the coordination of drunk stepping over a floor made of butter and banana peels, trying to get me to dance is not something that I particularly enjoy. Though there is no denying that the beat of Indian dances is mesmerizing and it is self-evident why people often will break out into dance. Of course my resistance to dance did not stop people from making me dance and at several parties and gatherings I was forced to learn some of the basic steps of Bollywood dance music.
Dancing is not easy and requires a lot of concentration, at least for me. To be fair though bhangra and Bollywood dance troops train with the utmost precision and dedication in order to get an incredible result. Through the usage of carefully planned choreography that takes even the most minute details from leg to arm movements as well as the costumes worn by dancers, an exceptional and energetic performances full of upbeat music and mesmerizing colors is achieved. As for me, despite my limited knowledge of how to actually dance bhangra, I think I’ll just stick to writing and occasionally observing a performance or two.