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Boogie to Bhangra

Sunday, August 8, 2004; Page M03

You've waltzed, samba'd and discoed till dawn. But do you bhangra? Even if you don't know what that means, you're probably a fan of the music: The bouncy strain of Indian folk fused with hip-hop, reggae and electronica has been co-opted by Jay-Z ("Beware of the Boys"), Britney Spears ("I'm a Slave 4 U") and other major music stars.

Bhangra's funky beats may be easy on the ears, but strutting your stuff subcontinental-style in a club is another matter entirely. To beginners, the elaborately choreographed blend of hand-twirling, torso-turning and shoulder-shrugging can resemble an unlikely marriage of body-rocking and country line-dancing. But there's a method to these moves, and a bhangra class may be just the trick to transform you from dance-hall dope into Bollywood phenom.


No, you're not expected to dress up like this in da club -- these were students wowing the crowd at GW's spring "Bhangra Blowout" competition. (Robert A. Reeder For The Washington Post)

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What to Expect: Bhangra music is characterized by the beat of a dhol, or two-headed drum; it began as a celebratory rite in the fields of Punjab, the agrarian region straddling India and Pakistan. Bhangra instruction varies: Some teachers offer more of a hip-hop-influenced bump-and-grind, while others veer closer to aerobics-style kicks and squats. Classes typically have at least eight students and attract a range of ages -- from older generations of immigrants (affectionately termed "aunties and uncles") to their teenage grandchildren. Local clubs including Cafe Citron, Cilantro and Murali Lounge hold periodic bhangra nights (look for a long line of single South Asian twenty-somethings sizing each other up), and each spring, George Washington University plays host to "Bhangra Blowout," an intercollegiate dance-off that draws thousands to the District.

What to Bring: Wear loose clothing with sneakers or bare feet. Comfort reigns supreme: To bhangra is to sweat. Club land, unsurprisingly, is much more of a meet market, and patrons dress accordingly.

Cost: Sessions range from $60 to $140 and consist of seven to 14 hour-long classes; some instructors allow you to pay on a class-by-class basis. S. Mitra Kalita

Where to Feel The Beat

Dance to Health Society. Classes offered through the Montgomery County Department of Recreation at the Potomac Community Center, 11315 Falls Rd., Potomac. 301-365-5231. www.dance2health.com. This 60-minute class incorporates dance forms from Bollywood to jazz but focuses mainly on bhangra as exercise. A 10-week session starting Sept. 21 costs $60.

India School Inc. T.W. Pyle Middle School, 6311 Wilson Lane, Bethesda. 301-654-6915. www.indiaschoolinc.com. A seven-week dance class, blending bhangra with choreography based on folk dance and hip-hop, started July 14; it meets Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and again from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. and offers continuous enrollment (each class costs about $10). Next class begins Sept. 19.

www.masaladance.com. Not ready to go public with your moves? Bhangra in your living room and aerobicize at the same time with the "Masala Bhangra Workout," a bhangra-cardio hybrid. The video is $14.95 and the DVD is $19.95.

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