Shivani Bhagwan is the girl behind Bhangra Funk, a dance form that’s gradually gaining popularity in the States. It combines the elements of Punjabi bhangra and hip hop to create a unique fusion to help you break a sweat (and have fun while doing it!).
Indian at heart and American by citizenship, Shivani is a professional dancer with many fans, including Bollywood actor Arjun Kapoor. But she and Chaya Kumar (the other founder) have had their share of ups and downs in running what’s now a successful dance class in Michigan and Los Angeles, California.
IndiBeat catches up with Shivani to learn more about her journey and dance style.
IB: What are some of the challenges you faced along the way and what drove you to get where you are today?
Simply getting people to show up to class in the beginning was definitely a workout in itself (haha). I felt so guilty annoying people every week with numerous texts and reminders about where and when class would be happening. Also getting hate mail and internet hate is never fun. Some people are really passionate in their opinions about bhangra being mixed with hip hop.
The drive is just purely passion. Chaya and I work at a feverish pace to challenge ourselves creatively. The passion to be better choreographers, better dancers, and better people is where all the drive comes from.
IB: You have a big fan following abroad. How strongly is the Indian youth connected to you?
Very connected! I love being able to share our content, specifically with the Indian youth in America, because I think they can really appreciate the fusion of two styles. Being a first generation Indian American, I love being able to represent two cultures. As first generations we are eager to hold onto our roots, while feeling proud to be American.
IB: What’s your fitness mantra that helps you bring so much energy and stamina to the floor?
Training in other dance styles at studios like Millennium Dance Complex and IDA hollywood pushes me to pick up advanced choreography. The beauty of being a dancer is that you are always a student. I love learning new styles and training with anyone and everyone. There is always something you can train more at.
IB: Do you think Bhangra Funk can become the next Zumba? Can it also become a part of one’s health regime?
Bhangra Funk is definitely a workout, however it is a performance-based class. We believe that dancers at any level can improve as performers–and fitness is simply correlated. A healthy lifestyle supplements being able to improve as a dancer and an artist.
IB: How can flexibility be achieved to perform a high energy dance like Bhangra Funk? What exercise or warm up do you suggest?
Daily discipline. Practice a little bit every single day to gain flexibility. Our bodies reject whatever is foreign to us, so to really build muscle-memory takes time. Grooving exercises are a great way to warm up to loosen up your upper body. Very often you see dancers make the mistake of keeping their neck and upper body tight.
IB: What advice do you have for young millennials looking to take up dance or fitness as a career?
It’s not as much about the result as it is about the journey. Push boundaries and do things that are different, unique, and maybe even weird. Most importantly, love the process of aiming to become a better dancer, performer, and artist. If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.
Image Credit: Shivani Bhagwan