Thanks to pop music videos and Bollywood, Bhangra is not just a Punjabi folk dance anymore, but rather a vibrant dance form that is well-known worldwide. When the dhol (drum) and peppy music starts anywhere, there are few who can resist swaying to the rhythm. However, there is a lot more to Bhangra than energetic shouts and arm movements in the air. With the festival of Baisakhi around the corner (April 14), there are likely to be many occasions where you can join in the joyful celebrations.
If you wish to be part of the song-and-dance rituals, here’s our guide on a few basic dance steps that will allow you to seamlessly join the crowd. But first, let’s learn a little about the festival:
Baisakhi is an important festival for Sikhs, and is celebrated with gusto by Punjabis all over the world. Other than being celebrated as a harvest festival, this day is also observed as the foundation day of the Khalsa Panth (established in 1699) and as the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, who was the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs.
People in Punjab and members of the Sikh community all over the world usually celebrate this day by visiting Gurudwaras, where the holy book Guru Granth Sahib is given a symbolic bath, and is then read out. Religious songs, distribution of Prasad, and Langar (community lunch) are events that follow.
The day of Baisakhi also witnesses the vibrant Baisakhi procession, in which the holy book is taken out on a journey. Bhangra and Giddha dances to the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments are a mainstay of the processions, where everyone joins in to dance and celebrate.
Characterised by an upbeat tempo and energetic body movements, Bhangra is one of the most popular folk dances of India. It’s performed at numerous occasions and celebrations, not only by Punjabis, but also by people of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Contemporary singers and dancers have lent this dance a funky image with Western-style music creating an interesting fusion. However, the origins of Bhangra go way back to the time before the Partition of India and Pakistan, when Sikh and Muslim men in agricultural districts used to perform this dance to celebrate the spring harvest.
Earlier, only men used to dance the Bhangra while women did the Giddha, which is danced by forming circles. Quite similar to Bhangra, Giddha is also performed to the beats of the dhol with clapping and upbeat swinging movements.
5 Bhangra Moves You Need To Know
A major reason behind the popularity of Bhangra is that almost anybody can perform it, and this encourages people to participate in the celebrations.
If you wish to showoff some Bhangra moves this Baisakhi, here are a few easy steps you can practice:
One of the most common moves performed by all Bhangra dancers, the Punjab is pretty easy to follow. All you need to do is throw both hands up in the air, cross one leg in front of the other, and then perform two hops to return to the original position. A shrug of the shoulders as you hop and move your hands will add more vibrancy to the move. This is done alternately for each leg.
This move makes the dancer seem like he/she is rowing a boat. A prop, usually a long stick, is used to do the Chappu. You start by bending your knees, and then as you hop on alternate legs, you move the stick, similar to a rowing motion.
To perform the Mahia, you need to clap your hands, take one hand back in a rotating movement, and bring it back for a front clap again. As you use your right hand for the motion, step forward with your right leg and go back to the standing position as you clap. This is the Single Mahia. To perform the Double Mahia, you can use both hands alternatively.
For this move, bring both hands to the front of your body below the stomach and perform a rotation of your wrists. Simultaneously, lift your left leg towards the right in a half-knee bent position while balancing on your right leg. Next, hop on the left leg as you take both hands up towards the ceiling while keeping the right leg in the half-knee bent stance.
Another commonly performed Bhangra move is the Lahria. To perform this, you keep one hand on the waist and move the other back and forth. Start with raising your right hand up, bringing it forward as you perform a little hop by putting your right leg forward, and then take the hand back beneath the waist. Some variations of this step include Double Lahria and Chutki Lahria.
Bhangra is widely recognised today, as the steps from this dance form are even being incorporated into workout routines to add some fun and an upbeat vibe to exercise. A quick and cost-effective way of picking up a few Bhangra moves that you can perform during Baisakhi celebrations is to get an instructional DVD of basic dance steps. There are plenty of online tutorials and classes available too. Bhangra is all about speed, balance, and coordinated movements. But above all, it is about celebrating and having fun. So it is alright if you miss a beat or two. Soaking in the festive experience of Baisakhi and moving your body to the drum beat is more important!
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