Bhangra is an Indian folk dance originating from the Punjab region. Traditionally, the dance was for males and celebrated harvest. Now, bhangra is a very popular dance for both genders and is for fitness and competition. It is exceedingly high-energy and is performed to traditional and remixes of traditional bhangra music.
Bhangra competitions have become hugely popular events in the U.S. especially between college Bhangra teams or local teams compete for best dance routines.
Originally, the bhangra was just a folk dance that was confined to the Punjab during the harvest festival of Baisakhi. This was performed only by men, while the women would perform the giddha. Over the centuries, bhangra grew to encompass not only the giddha but a number of rural Punjabi folk dances.
The basic step involves raising both arms in the air and alternately lifting the knees, while lightly hopping and bouncing the shoulders. With backs straight and chests proud, dancers swing their arms and clap their hands. The dhol, a large barrel drum heard in popular Punjabi music, accompanies the dance. At competitions, teams are judged on their choreography, technique, traditional style, synchronization, and ability to entertain. A complex eight-minute routine, for 8 to 16 dancers, may take an entire semester to choreograph and rehearse.
Ability to entertain is a very important part of bhangra competitions and choreographies. Great choreography, perfect technique and excellent sychronization is crucial to looking good, but what's even more critical is stage presence. Members who dance on exceptional bhangra competition teams have huge amounts of energy. When they are on stage they appear to be having the time of their lives. Their joy for the dance should spread to the audience.
Bhangra evolved out of an ancient traditional folk dance music played during harvest festivities, with the crop often being hemp, or bhang in Hindi.
It later became a more all-around popular music, with the dhol being supplemented by the quieter dholak hand drum, the two-piece tabla hand drum, and melodic instrumentation including traditional Indian flute, twangy one-stringed thumbi fiddle, zither, violin, harmonium, and, eventually, more modern instruments like guitar, mandolin, accordion, and saxophone.
Today bhangra is also an Indian wedding staple only vaguely resembling its humble roots; it has morphed into a series of high-energy moves that test the stamina of any regular gymgoer (and are a feature of the dancing in Bollywood movies). The dancing is usually punctuated with joyous shouts of “balle balle,” the Hindi version of “woo-hoo.”
While Bhangra historians speculate the dance may have originated in the time of the wars with Alexander
no one is sure it existed until about five hundred years ago. Around the 14th or 15th Century, Punjabi
wheat farmers danced and sang songs about village life to help pass the time while working in the
fields. With time, these became part of harvest celebrations at Bhaisakhi (April 13) festivals, as the
sight of their crops growing invigorated the farmers. From here the dance quickly moved through all
divisions of class and education, eventually becoming a part of weddings, New Year parties, and other
Despite the popularity of bhangra with young women, bhangra's roots as a traditionally male dance affect women's experience of the dance. [Sarina Jain] suggests that women are drawn to the dance because the traditionally male movements make women feel strong. Bhangra is "very much a man's dance," she says. "I love watching Punjabi boys dance. I get a high off their strength. It's so manly. I absolutely love it. I want to copy it."
Traditionally, Bhangra was performed by males. Now, many females are now participating in the dance. However, there are currently still more men that dance Bhangra than there are women. Some women even dance in the traditional men's clothing with beards drawn on their faces. The movements are very strong and powerful and are typically slightly easier for men to execute, although women are definitely working their way into the dance form.
Bhangra is descended from the ancient ritual folk dance of Vaisakhi, the Sikh festival of the wheat harvest. Set to the pounding bass of the dhol drum, the high-energy physical display was originally the dance of farming men who would sing Boliyaan (lyrics) and dance, reflecting the joyousness of the occasion.
Pop-Bhangra, a subset of Bhangra dance, is being taught in fitness centers across the country. With its diverse movements it fuses Bhangra with hip-hop for a high-energy, effective workout.
Bhangra is an incredibly high-energy dance. It takes a lot of stamina to dance full out bhangra for a just a few minutes, yet most performances are longer -- reaching seven or eight minutes. Bhangra is full of jumping and powerful arm movements, which takes a huge amount of muscles strength. Bhangra is becoming a very popular workout because of how effective and challenging it is.
The basic movements of Bhangra relate to farming activities like ploughing, sowing and harvesting. Traditionally performed to celebrate the harvest, Bhangra reflected the enthusiasm and appreciation shared among rural folk as they witnessed their hard labor bear fruit.