We Bollywood song-and-dance buffs are a kooky lot. Rather than humanitarians or sports icons, we’ve grown up worshipping the likes of Saroj Khan, Vaibhavi Merchant, and Ganesh Hegde. Our idea of a fun Friday night is studying the Chamak Challo choreography until we have every last pelvic thrust perfected. And, we’ll brave torrential summer downpours to attend DhoonyaFIT dance classes.
Which is exactly what I found myself doing last Thursday evening. I first heard of the Dhoonya Dance company last summer, when I participated in the flash mob they organized in downtown Manhattan. My awkward attempts to perform Sheila Ki Jawani in the middle of Bowling Green Park sparked an unsettling realization: an 8-year hiatus from formal lessons had left my once-fervent passion for dance neglected, stale and in need of some serious rekindling.
So, there I was at my first DhoonyaFIT class along with about 15 others who, unfazed by the severe weather alerts issued all afternoon, piled into a Times Square studio for an hour of Bollywood-inspired fitness. Tornado warnings and bolts of lightning weren’t going to get in our way of filmi fun!
And what fun it was! My particular class was steered by Rohan Sheth (aptly monikered @Ro_beast on Twitter), whose infectious energy made it easy to forget that we were, in fact, exercising. Disguised as Bhangra bedis, Garba lehrees, Bollywood booty-shakes–and all right, the occasional killer set of planks—Dhoonya FIT was 60 minutes of exhilarating, heart-pumping cardio that put the monotony of treadmills and ellipticals to shame. With a playlist including the most popular of past and present chartbusters, from Cocktail’s “Secondhand Jawaani” and Desi Boyz’ “Tu Mera Hero” to the wildly addictive “Mein Aayi Hoon UP Bihar Lootne”, the music clearly reflected the program’s tagline, “find your inner Bollywood.” It isn’t just a catchy slogan; it’s a veritable goal.
Founded in 2005, Dhoonya Dance is the product of friends Kajal Mehta and Priya Pandya’s mutual passion for Indian dance, commitment to promoting South Asian culture, and mission to add a Bollywood flair to fitness. 7 years later, Dhoonya Dance is comprised of 9 instructors in Washington D.C and New York City, and has boasted appearances on Oprah and the CBS Early Show, along with mentions in publications such as The New York Times and Shape Magazine.
A craving to rediscover what used to be a regular hobby may have piqued my personal interest in Dhoonya. However, familiarity with Hindi movies or music is by no means a requirement to appreciate the classes. Their combination of choreography and strength-building make it accessible for any and all who try them, from the novice who has no idea who Madhuri Dixit even is, to the ardent fan for whom memorizing the steps of “Ek Do Teen” as a child was their equivalent of learning to ride a bike.
It took me a year to finally make it to a class, and now that I have, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. Merge the uplifting beats, the irresistibly positive spirit,and the friendly bunch of fellow participants, and it’s no surprise that DhoonyaFIT was exactly the reintroduction to dance that I needed. I left dripping, pleasantly achy, and already planning my return to the studio.
Consider my inner Bollywood found.
Get more information on Dhoonya Dance’s story, schedules, and class packages.