Dance Your Way to Fitness

We all want that celebrity-worthy body, but let’s face it – sometimes going to the gym is just a drag. To mix it up and have fun while blasting those calories, we’ve found some great bollywood-inspired fitness classes and instructors that will motivate you to get in shape while you get your groove on. Here’s the scoop on three of these classes and their founders.

Founded by fitness entrepreneur Sarina Jain, this workout consists of a rousing blend of bhangra dancing, Bollywood moves, and lively songs. In addition to establishing Masala Bhangra classes nationwide from California to NY, Jain has made eight bollywood-inspired workout videos over her 20-year career in fitness, and has a dedicated following due both to her personal charisma and the intensity and exuberance of her workout. Anu Athri, a current studentof Jain’s, had heard about bhangra and Bollywood workouts but was skeptical at first. Jain’s energy, she says, kept her coming back. “She’s taken those steps and made it a really good workout,” Athri says. But importantly, she makes sure to keep the class upbeat and fun: “She doesn’t just make you do steps,” says Athri. “She really brings out the celebrative spirit of the dance.” The workout itself consists of nonstop movement designed to raise the heart rate and keep it up for the duration of class. Jain breaks down a series of bhangra and Bollywood-style dance moves, and then sequences them into a routine which is slowly added onto throughout the class. In addition to burning a hefty amount of calories, you can also learn some moves to bust out at your next wedding!

“Get the South Asian people moving – that’s the key, because South Asians in general do not work out. It’s not in our culture at all,” says Jain, who cites the passing of her father as the driving force behind her decision to meld her fitness knowledge with South Asian culture and music. This year, her workout celebrates its 10th anniversary and its popularity has exploded, even among non- South Asians. In Latin America, as the face of Nestlé fitness, Jain has her workout DVDs in 2.6 million cereal boxes and is reaching thousands of households. She is expanding, teaching master classes and training instructors overseas. “Masala Bhangra is very popular is Japan right now,” Jain says. “I have so many instructors in Japan, and they love our culture!” Luckily for us, Sahelis, we don’t have to travel that far to get our bhangra fix! Jain herself teaches eighteen classes in NYC throughout the week, at various NYSC and Crunch gyms and the Alvin Ailey studios. Check out the schedule here.

Dhoonya Dance

Founded five years ago by dancers Priya Pandya and Kajal Mehta, DhoonyaDance has grown to encompass a wide range of offerings and classes in New York, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. For the beginner, a Bollybasics class is recommended; here students learn footwork, shoulder and arm moves, and put them together into a dance routine of bhangra moves and bollywood flair. The new DhoonyaFIT class, which began in NYC in June, evolved based on student feedback. A more intense, cardiovascular version of the Bollybasics class, it is designed with fitness and weight loss in mind. One student who has been coming since DhoonyaFIT’s inception praises Pandya’s patience and gentleness, especially with first-timers. “The fitness class is intense!” she says. “I can feel changes in my body, in my stamina.” Stamina is one thing you’ll wish you had more of as you follow movement after consecutive movement, without pause, as Pandya or other teachers lead you on encouragingly. Nonstop motion ensures heart rate elevation and great fat burn, while swiveling moves target the abs and obliques, lunges work the thighs and glutes, and pushups and crunches at the end of the class round out the workout. Expect to be sucking wind thoughout, but the payoff is worth it, with students happily flushed and sweating at the end of the class. Merely the sight of the lithe bodies of Dhoonya’s teachers jumping effortlessly from one movement to the next is inspiration enough to keep coming back. If it works for them, Sahelis, then it will work for us!

There’s more: Dhoonya also offers classes for kids, in Chelsea and Caroll Gardens, BK. The curriculum is based on age groups, with an eye towards cultural immersion: kids learn the basic concepts of rhythm but also the meaning of various Hindi words and how they relate to the song and dance. As if that weren’t awesome enough, Dhoonya also has a performance company, which dances at various public and private events, galas, and weddings. And if you’re looking for a chance to bust a move like these pros, you can: private and custom classes are offered for individuals and couples to wedding parties of a dozen or more, where you can learn a piece of choreography to perform at your event. Impress your guests with your new body and your new moves! Check out Dhoonya’s offerings here.


For those looking for a little less workout and a little more choreography, BollywoodFunkNYC offers an array of fusion classes to those hankering to learn some music-video-worthy moves. Founder Ayesha Khanna trained at the renowned Danceworx Performing Arts Academy in New Delhi and danced in many megahit bollywood videos, including “Dhoom Machale,” before moving to NYC and opening the school in 2007. The BollywoodFunkNYC dance company, comprised of dancers of all backgrounds, is making a name for itself, with performances at venues such as the South Street Seaport Diwali festival and the Fred Astaire Awards ceremony. Impressively, they were the first bollywood dance group invited by MTV to compete in their hit show, America’s Best Dance Crew!

Classes are taught by company members, who train under Khanna for a long time, learning her signature style and choreography. The dance style of these classes is very contemporary, a blend of jazz, hip-hop and funk to the latest and hottest bollywood songs. The Basic Beginner level is perfect for those with no previous dance training; a single routine is learned and practiced over the course of five weeks. Advanced Beginner and by-audition-only Intermediate levels are better suited for those with previous dance experience, while Hip-hop Hungama, a purely hip-hop class set to bollywood tracks, is open to all levels.

Check out the class schedule here. Sign up now and get ready to start dancing like a bollywood star!

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