Dance like a Bollywood star at Ajna Dance

One of the perks of working at CourseHorse is taking a bunch of classes. When I first started working here I thought I would exclusively attend art classes, being an art student my whole life. Maybe I’d throw in some wine and cheese tastings. Luckily that has not been the case, I’ve gotten to explore so many different categories on our site. One of the classes I never expected to take was Bollywood & Bhangra Drop In.

Dance classes in general kind of intimidate me. When Minila from Ajna Dance reached out to our team to see if anyone would want to try a class, I was drafted. I did not volunteer. Me and my good friend Bax (another Horse) agonized about how badly we were going to suck at this class. At the same time we also under estimated how intense it was going to be.

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Minila Shah, the founder and director of Ajna Dance, was first enrolled in Bharatnatyam (South Indian classic dance lessons) when she was 5. At the age of 11 she was choreographing her own performances at different community events and folk dance festivals. When I asked her what influences her choreography the most she said, “the mood, music, meaning and energy of the piece.” (I could tell when we went on to the second half of the class, certain moves reflected the literal translation of the song we were performing).

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We almost didn’t wear workout clothes. Huge mistake. The first thirty minutes of the class is constant movement. You follow the teacher through five or six songs, mimicking her movements. The moves are very physical; you are jumping, kicking your legs, waiving your arms, flexing your toes and fingers, bobbing your head. Basically, it is not an exaggeration to say you use your whole body (and that everything will be sore).

Two songs in I was dripping sweat and Bax was grasping for his water bottle. As someone who works out fairly regularly I didn’t think a dance class was going to get my heart rate up that high. We were exhausted, but after about two songs we were starting to get a hang of the moves. As Minila put it, “[Bollywood]‘s a wonderful mash up of classical Indian dance, various styles of Indian folk dance as well as hiphop, jazz, modern, belly-dance and Latin dance styles…it’s a style that is accessible to everyone.” Unlike classical Indian dance where it may take up to ten years to master the moves, Bollywood dancing is more about matching your energy to the music.

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The second half of the class slows down a bit. We worked on a choreographed routine (which is different every week). Here is where you work to perfect dance technique, posture, hand gestures, grace and expressiveness. Minila kept reminded us to smile – we looked so miserable, which is apparently what I look like when I’m trying to concentrate.

After thirty minutes we had learned the first verse and chorus of a song from a popular Bollywood Film. I was tired, but felt so accomplished. Bax and I debated performing our dance for the entire office the next day but we didn’t want to intimidate our team with our sick new moves.ajna 2

I have since returned to this class multiple times and have my friends to join me. Although I was petrified to start, what I found when I arrived was a warm environment and a class filled with students with a range of experience. I like throwing this into my regular workout schedule – the class is a great combination of cardio and choreography. You leave feeling like your butt got kicked, but you have learned a little bit more about a style of dance (and for me) a different culture.

I asked Minila to describe what a person can expect when they leave the class and I loved her answer, “feeling challenged, energized, sweaty, smiley, happy and a bit of Bollywood superstar.” Hell yeah, this non-dancer can personally attest to that.

Ajna dance runs three weekly adult drop in classes (and are in the process of growing and expanding). They also host private lessons and run kids classes.