When I first discovered bhangra, and saw the videos from Dhol Di Awaz, I just had to find a class. It looked like so much fun! And to be honest, I could use the exercise.
There was a class in Berkeley, run by the Dholrhythms Dance Company. I attended several classes before my ageing knees put a stop to it. I loved the class, I was just in too much pain to participate properly – I had a motorcycle accident in the ‘90s that left me with a broken leg that was repaired with a titanium rod in my tibia.
Bhangra, at least how it was taught in that class, was just too much for me. I reluctantly gave up on my dream of dancing competently and devoted my energies to learning to sing along to the music in key, if not necessarily with the right words.
Dholrhythms puts on a monthly event in San Francisco, Non-Stop Bhangra. For one glorious night a month, the club reverberates to the dhol, with local DJs spinning tracks. Unfortunately for me, NSB is usually held on a night that my kids are with me, so I haven’t had the occasion to go.
Last weekend was the kick-off for Mini Non-Stop Bhangra – a bhangra dance party especially for children. Since my kids are exposed to nothing but bhangra in the car these days, and like listening to it as much as I do, I thought they’d really enjoy going.
When I told them we were going to a bhangra dance party, my daughter started cheering and jumping up and down and my son started screaming and crying. He didn’t want to go to a dance party. He still has ambivalent feelings about what happened at Holi and he’s terrified now that any event I take him to, people are going to throw water on him.
He’s a young four, and has anxiety, so this is a standard reaction, but it didn’t stop my plan to go.
We managed to get out of the house in time and across the bridge into the big, bad City. I amped both kids up on oatmeal cookies to get their blood sugar in the green and we went into the club. I got an odd little moment of twisted mother-pride from the idea that my babies were going into their first over-21 club. Even if it wasn’t for over-21s that day, it was still a nightclub! They’re growing up so fast. In a few years, they’ll be able to get in there at night, no doubt with fake IDs they got on a lark with their hoodlum friends from school. But I digress …
I found a small corner to sit in with the bags, next to the DJ and the dholi, and sat to watch my children swirl around the dance floor in hot pursuit of the colored club lights, chasing around the floor in dizzying circles. As more people arrived, the rug-monkey vortex got larger and sucked more children into the event horizon. Before the whole club could be pulled in and create a gravity anomaly that would destroy San Francisco, Dholrhythms took to the stage to give a simple bhangra lesson especially for the children.
Something must have happened in the rug-monkey vortex because my children suddenly switched polarity: my daughter got frustrated with the dance steps, trying too hard, and she fled to sit in the rickshaw at the other end of the space to pout. My son was enthralled, and was so proud to be part of the group, that he gave it his very best try, and paid attention to the entire lesson.
He even took to the stage with the other children to show the adults what they’d learned and “teach” us to dance it with them. He sat on my lap throughout the performances by Dholrhythms, clapping and yelling “Balle balle!” with me. And he wanted to dance and dance after the show, during the free-for-all that ensued.
Fortunately, they’d left the disco lights off, so the vortex didn’t re-form.
I spent the rest of the time watching my children dancing and playing with the other children, my son making sheep’s eyes at all the little girls. He likes older women, though, so the six and up crowd just completely ignored him. He was crushed until a little girl his age let him take her hands and they stood there on the stage, looking at each other and sort of slow dancing. Which was funny considering the beat that was thumping in the background.
I even found that I remembered how to coordinate all my limbs so that I had a modicum of competence, and did a little dancing myself. I was happy to see that I could hold my own, and wasn’t as bad at bhangra as I had remembered being.
I got overconfident, though, and danced some while holding my son in my arms, which he really loved. And my knee got very angry at me, and has been chastising me with a wicked limp for days.
I don’t recommend bhangra weight-training for those with weak joints.
For once, my children didn’t want to leave a party before it was over. And as soon as we were in the car, they started begging to go to the next one.
All families have a group activity that is enjoyed by all. It can be fishing, camping, bowling, game night; so many possibilities. Not my family. The stuff I really like is usually too esoteric for the kids to enjoy yet, and the stuff they really like, while it can be amusing to watch them having so much fun, is usually rather boring for me on some level.
At last we have found our family time favorite. And wouldn’t you know, it’s bhangra.