Ever wanted to learn some sweet looking Bhangra moves but just didn’t know where to go or how to start? BhangraCentral.com had the opportunity recently to talk to Lavesh Pritmani, the CEO of Learn Bhangra App, the worlds most popular Bhangra dance tutorial app, about the concept for developing the app, his dance background and much more. Check it out below!
Firstly welcome to BhangraCentral.com, please tell us a little bit about Learn Bhangra App
The Learn Bhangra App (LBA) team currently consists of 9 members (and growing) from around the world. Lavesh Pritmani (CEO) and Sandeep Madhas (CTO) launched the App in Nov. 2014 and it has grown ever since. In just 1.5 years, the App has over 25K downloads and ~8K registered users. The App’s main purpose is to allow anyone and everyone to learn folk Bhangra thru high-quality video tutorials and other interactive features related to the dance. There is also a fitness component that utilizes the folk steps into a High-Intensity Dance program known as The Bhangra Workout, available as a paid option within the App.
How would you define Bhangra music and Bhangra dancing?
To me, Bhangra music is derived from the folk instruments of Punjab, such as Dhol, Tumbi, Algozha, etc. Bhangra dance is the movement of one’s body to these instruments, originally meant to project one’s masculinity (of course females also dance Bhangra nowadays) and power, while performing steps that resemble various aspects of life in the Punjab.
You’ve been into Bhangra dancing for a long time and have perfected some of the most intricate and complicated Bhangra moves. However what was the hardest dance move you had to learn when you first started to dance?
Some of the most difficult moves are actually the most basic – for example, executing Single Dhamaal (one of the primary steps in Bhangra) to the best of one’s ability requires sharp techniques in the leg, a powerful shoulder/chest shake, and superior stamina/conditioning to be able to continuously perform it. One step that was particularly difficult was Double Chaffa – the combination of the stamina and technique required is never easy!
What is the most frequent question you get asked by people that want to learn how to dance to Bhangra?
– “How do I do up-downs (Bethke) if I have bad knees”? Unfortunately, certain Bhangra steps do require a certain degree of athleticism, and Bethke are amongst the most difficult. There are variations (ie, don’t do the folk style Bethke where you kick out), but overall, there may be 2-3 steps to avoid if you may be injury prone in your knees, ankles, etc.
Dancing to Bhangra is highly influential on the kind of music that gets released. What are your thoughts on Bhangra music that has been coming out recently? (From the US or abroad?)
– It seems like the music is always changing – sometimes the best stuff is coming out of Punjab, othertimes UK, even North America. I think there is talent all over the world, as some of the most popular songs from last year came from singers across the globe. It is great to see the Punjabi music industry grow to various locations, as it helps foster talent, create a checks and balance system on the record labels, and most of all, give fans the
best music choices!
What can users expect when they download the Learn Bhangra App? What devices can I download the app on? (IOS, Android, Blackberry etc.)
– The App is free for iOS and Android devices. Users can learn steps, watch choreo videos, and read about Bhangra history. If someone registers for an account, they are able to track their progress, have the ability to upload videos and compete against others in periodic contests, and much more.
How important is incorporating dance into ones daily routine / life?
– From a cultural and exercise perspective, it is paramount! But even more so important is the discipline, respect, and confidence aspects. Dance (Bhangra in particular) allows you to bring out the best in yourself while learning to focus your mind and create a sense of respect for your teacher and peers. The lessons I have learned in Bhangra apply to countless aspects of my everyday life.
If you could teach anyone how to dance to Bhangra today, who would it be and why? (Who would you most like to see doing some Bhangra?)
– Neymar. Bhangra and Brasilian Futbol are my biggest passions, so what better way to mix the two? Plus, that would lead to a ton of downloads in Brasil :).
What are your views on the way Bhangra is being portrayed in music videos and in Bhangra competitions? (Do you like it, are you impressed with some of the moves and creativity or do you think it could be improved?)
In my opinion, it’s OK. There was a renaissance in the North American Bhangra scene somewhere between 2006 – 2011, but things haven’t progressed as a whole since then. In my opinion, it’s not so much the fact that teams aren’t “pushing the envelope” or being creative – rather, teams have forgotten to continuously improve their actual Bhangra. in 2006, everyone wanted to execute steps in a “folk/traditional” manner, and that continued for some years. Now it seems that teams think they have accomplished that, but I still think that there is much to be desired. On the flip side, the UK competitive scene is currently in their renaissance, and Austrailia has a lot of talent as well. Hopefully, these regions will continue to push each other to improve their Bhangra so that we continue to preserve the dance by executing it as best as possible.
What would you say your overall goals are with the Learn Bhangra App?
For everyone to know the App as a household name. If someone thinks about Bhangra, they should know the App exists (and hopefully download it)! I am also very fortunate to be able to conduct Bhangra workshops across the globe, and I look forward to meeting many new people and creating lifelong relationships in the process. The App has continued to make this traveling possible!
How does it make you feel when people who couldn’t finish a single step at the beginning send you videos of them completing all levels of your programme? (How proud is it to see the progress being made?)
Amazing. As a teacher/coach, nothing is better to see the happiness in your student when they accomplish the goal you help them set out to achieve. All the kind words we have received from everyone is what keeps us going, and we are so thankful and blessed for the support!
What made you decide to set up a Bhangra programme and coaching Bhangra teams? (I assume this question is about my academy and not the App?)
I wanted to create a system where kids of any background, shape, or size could feel like they’re are on a “varsity” team. Not everyone likes or can play sports in school, and with our study-centric desi culture, it’s hard for kids these days to get exercise. What better what to provide it than thru an academy where students can build up to a competitive level and win trophies? Furthermore, for those who fall in love with the dance, teaching opportunities are always around the corner. It’s a beautiful system and every time I see a student who started with us in middle school begin teaching his/her own middle school class years later, it’s pure joy.
Do you try to incorporate new styles of dance moves from other genres into your routines?
No, we try to showcase Bhangra as a folk dance. On the contrary, we try using Bhangra moves to many non-Punjabi songs. One of our biggest successes was our simple Bhangra routine to Fetty Wap’s “679” that went viral by gathering over 13M views across various social media platforms!
You are very big on keeping tradition and culture especially when it comes to the names of each move. Do you think that will have an impact on its uptake in the Western world?
We tend to find that the Westerners who download the App are many times the ones who are most keen on learning all the actual names, history, and cultural aspects. We want to showcase this type of Bhangra all over the world because we feel it is absolutely beautiful and should be highlighted.
How would you compare the Bhangra dance scene in the UK to the US?
I think the US is solid, but has gotten a little stagnant (not just teams, but even competitions, mixes, etc.) over the last few years. The UK has really improved on the other hand, and is now probably very close to the same level as the US. Canada still has the most talent in my opinion, but it doesn’t seem that there as many Canadian active teams and competitions as in years past.
What has been your most memorable experience since starting the programme?
The greatest experiences have come from traveling abroad to do Bhangra workshops. Meeting Mexicans and Argentinians who love Bhangra as much as I do really warms my heart. It shows that there is a global Bhangra family and the more we are all able to connect and help each other, the more our dance and music will flourish.
What is your personal favourite Bhangra move to do?
It’s tough, but I love Double Dhamaal. It’s one of the biggest steps and requires the most athleticism, hence why it is advanced in the App. But when executed to the fullest extent, nothing makes you feel more powerful and alive.
What do you look for in performances when you are judging dance competitions?
I look at judging like you would look a food group pyramid (remember those as a kid)? The large base is related to how a team executed their movements. Did they do the step its maximum capability/effectiveness? The middle area is synchronization and energy (a tie). The very tip of the pyramid are the intangibles – x factor, mix, creativity, etc.
You incorporate a lot of great music in your programmes, what are your personal top 5 Bhangra songs that always get you in the dancing mood?
Great question…that’s a tough one!
1. Panjabi MC – Moorni
2. KS Makhan – Sir Kadhve
3. DJ Surinder Rattan – Has Has
4. Jazzy B – Sardara (amongst many)
5. Malkit Singh – pretty much anything
6. Have to include Surjit Bindrakhia (take your pick)
On a scale of 1 to 10, how vigorous is Bhangra dancing?
11. Here is an actual review of The Bhangra Workout from the App store: “I have done Spartan Races that were not this difficult”.
Name the first thing you think of when you hear:
Bhangra – Dancing in a studio with a dholi and your squad
Exercise – A gym
Dance – For some reason, ballet?
Learn Bhangra App – Ugh, I have a lot of work to do
Jugni – 8 guys on stage getting really wide and low and looking at each other in a strangely loving manner
What do you have in store for the rest of 2016?
We just recently launched a couple new features in the App, including a personalized lesson/critique service for individuals and teams wanting to get better. Additionally, we plan to travel a lot more – there are workshops coming up in Colombia, Brasil, Malaysia, and hopefully a few more before the year is out. We are excited about some of the other media-related opportunities including TV shows and possible movie appearances – stay tuned!
Where can people contact and interact with you online?
Finally do you have any words for the readers of BhangraCentral.com?
Download the App if you haven’t already! And make reading BhangraCentral.com part of your daily routine 🙂
We always look at the latest releases to figure out which new songs to dance to! Love the interviews section as well.
Thanks for interviewing us!