52 Adventures #34 – Bhangra Dancing

It’s Saturday and Daegan and I are sitting down for our daily “check-in” where we talk about how we did on the goals we set the day before and what our next day’s goals would be. Today I am asking for help coming up with new, pandemic-friendly adventures. Sage asks “What are you afraid of? What are you scared to do?” I honestly answer “You know? I can’t think of anything. Sure, some physical stuff like bungee jumping that I can’t do during the pandemic but otherwise I’m good. I did karaoke, even in Hindi, I hung by a rope off the side of the CN tower, I ate insects. I can’t think of anything!”

The next day after Hindi class I get ready for Sunday’s adventure with Gurdeep Pandher, a man who’s been making international news by sharing joy through Bhangra dance.

“Yesterday, I received my Covid-19 vaccine. Then I went to a frozen lake to dance Bhangra on it for joy, hope and positivity, which I’m forwarding across Canada and beyond for everyone’s health and wellbeing.”

Throughout the pandemic he’s been dedicating dance videos to people, sometimes all nurses, other times to individuals who have been struggling all with the goal of sharing positivity. And it’s been making a huge difference.

It is so inspiring to see him making sharing positivity and helping others his life’s work.

In addition to making videos, he’s a dance teacher and offers classes online through his website throughout the pandemic. I decide that I’m going to give it a try.

I’ve tried dancing before as you know but this is a completely different style. On my last trip to India, after seeing Hellaro in the theatre, my sister tried teaching me how to do Garba (a dance that figures heavily in the movie). The moves were slower and lower energy than how Bhangra looks but even that felt impossible. My mind knew what I was supposed to do but my body just wouldn’t follow. And now I will not only be dancing, I’ll be doing it on Zoom with dozens of people, my camera on and a second camera filming me so you all can see how I do.

There are about 25 people in the class today, many from all over Canada but folks from the US and UK too. I’m pleased to see that two people are calling in from Vermont. Gurdeep says hello to everyone individually and asks how we’re all doing. There are clearly some regulars here that he addresses with familiarity including a child of around 8. That makes this one of the most age-diverse Zoom calls I’ve been on with people well into their senior years on the call as well and everyone in between.

After a quick stretch he tells us we’re going to do a simple move today. I’m thrilled to hear this. He puts on some music, does a few quick rounds himself and then stops. This move, called Kulla Phulka does not look the least bit simple to me. Your feet and legs are doing something, your legs are doing something else. How can this be simple?

Then he breaks the move down – first the feet – right foot to the right and bounce, left foot follows and a bounce. We try that a few times and it’s pretty tough but manageable. Time to add hand and arm movements. Step 1, clap, step 2, hands on hips, step 3, right arm out, step 4 left arm out. All done, as he describes, with flair. I don’t know if I have flair but each piece on its own seems simple enough.

We start the music up, add pieces one by one and it’s really hard. He slows the music down a bit and it’s a little better but still extremely hard. My feet aren’t going the right way to match my arm movements and I’m often skipping one or more of the arm movements. I stop frequently to sync back up with everyone, managing to do a couple of rounds before leaving the path again.

Every once in a while he gives us a reminder. “It is important when doing Bhangra,” he says, “to smile.”

Great – one more thing to remember. Move legs, move hands differently (four different ways) and then smile. But every time he reminds us to, I try it anyway. One of the most important things to me about 52 Adventures is how I approach it. One does not phone in an adventure. I commit 100% or I don’t do it. And there is no choice not to do it.

And so I smile. Immediately I notice an effect. I feel better about how I’m doing. Then, as I start to feel better about how I’m doing I become less self-conscious. As I become less self-conscious, guess what happens? It gets easier. 30 minutes into the class I’m still struggling but I can see that improvement is possible. And I can have fun.

That fun is due, in great part, to Gurdeep. He’s an excellent teacher, breaking it down to manageable moves. Then once we’re trying it out he’s incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging. There’s no feeling dumb or kicking yourself for missing a move when he’s cheering in the background. He’s having the time of his life so it is impossible not to join him.

Looking at this I’m actually thrilled with the outcome. I can see all sorts of mistakes, and in this 30 second clip I’m so focused on moving I’ve forgotten to smile outside, but I can remember how it felt inside. This was one of the moments where I shifted from thinking about how I was doing, or even one step removed from that, how I felt about how I was doing and just focused on what I was doing. And that felt great.

It reminds me a lot of something Sage and I have been talking a lot about this week. Lately we’ve been watching The Amazing Race Australia and paying close attention to how people were approaching tasks. In the American version people seem to get very wrapped up in how hard it is, or how bad they are at it and conclude that the current thing they’re doing sucks. Yes, they’re on TV, with a chance to win a million dollars, traveling the world on someone else’s bill and the most striking thing about the current moment they’re in is just how awful they feel about it.

Meanwhile in the later episodes of the Australian version, all but one of the teams seems to just have a very practical attitude. This is going to be hard, but we need to do it. At one point there was a task where four people together had to eat 100 raw oysters. While three of one set of four had lots of trouble with it, two other groups of four had a different attitude. One group just sat down and looked as if they were hanging out after work. I think it was likely relatively easy for them. But another group was having lots of trouble, literally choking them down, sometimes even gagging or being physically ill. But then, right afterward they all laughed. “Look at how ridiculous this situation is!” they seemed to be saying, “But we’ve got to do it so let’s keep moving forward.”

And that’s the attitude I tried to bring in to this class even more than my swing dancing class. It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be a little embarrassing and I’m not going to be good at it. But I’m going to have fun. And in the end all of those things were true.

There was one other thing I did not expect at all from this class. It was an intense workout as you can likely see from how much I’m sweating. I ride my bike every day, sometimes entering races. Throughout the winter I went running for 15-20 km/week. But this? This left me tired and sore – so sore, in fact, that I had to wake up and take some Advil in the night before getting back to sleep.

So what is my response to doing something I’m not good at and drove me to near exhaustion? Clearly I’m going back again next weekend.

17 thoughts on “52 Adventures #34 – Bhangra Dancing

  1. OMG Todd you did great. I have never ever tried this form of dance. You inspire me in many ways 😊

    I am sure you have seen this before.

    1. Thanks so much! I’m going to practice a bit more as just maintaining that little bit of competence took so much concentration! Of course it really helps to have a good teacher for anything like this. You should try one of his classes sometime. They’re really fun.

      I hadn’t seen that video before. How fun! I really like those sorts of things. It’s one of the great things about living in the city – the ability to sometimes stumble upon unexpected joy.

  2. I loved watching your dance. And here I thought you thought you weren’t that coordinated. Clearly biking has informed your arms and legs about working together. Great flash mob video too.

    1. Really? Thanks! That is the opposite of what I’d have said. Funny how our own perceptions of ourselves can be so different from others’. I actually know exactly where that perception came from: It started with this story and was repeated by my mother (a doctor said it after all!) for years afterward.

  3. An inspiring post, Todd, on so many levels!
    To try things we might be afraid to, to dance for joy, to dance for others … fabulous. I think you did extremely well, though I am no expert. It certainly looked like you were having fun!

    1. Thanks! I had an excellent time. My relationship with these posts is really something. The best posts are also the ones that just before I do the task I think “Wait, what in the world am I about to do?!?!” This was definitely one of those.

      I’d also say that these are the most interesting and fun experiences. They’re all fun, but the ones where I’m second-guessing my own sanity seem to have a bigger payoff for me in the end.

  4. You are pretty good at it. I felt your movements are quite aligned in the video. Most importantly you are enjoying it. There’s a lot to learn from you, Todd. You’re inspiring in so many ways. You keep discovering ways to keep yourself engaged in ways that so many of us wouldn’t even think about. Have fun!

    1. Thanks! As I said in my latest entry – I wasn’t always adventurous like this but over time I’ve found out that for me, anyway, always keeping challenged and/or learning makes me happy. Many of us think that watching TV all the time or being able to sit forever on a beach with an umbrella drink is heaven but I think I’d be miserable with that situation.

      Also I’m sure you’ve seen over time that I like to get myself in a little bit of trouble. Obviously not trouble that hurts others or is actually dangerous but stuff that makes me think “Well now, what do I do in this situation?!” That’s heaven.

      1. One thing I know for sure is there isn’t a dull moment in your life. You always figure out something interesting and engaging to do and almost all of them are meaningful too. Though I keep wondering how do you manage time. I always find myself struggling with that.

      2. I think on the one hand, I manage time by being lucky enough most of the time to have a job that doesn’t demand much outside normal working hours. (Except during peak time in projects). But then it’s a matter of planning. I’m not very good at it – Sage is much better and she’s where I learned most of it from. I think the high level idea is to block out time that is not work or sleep and then for the times that are left, mark down when you’ll do things. In my case it means sometimes I don’t have any non-allocated time. I wake up, meditate, shower, cook breakfast, work, lunch (and card games with Sage – loser does household chores), work, end the day, go exercise, cook dinner, then a little relaxing with Sage and sleep.

        So the things I do have small burdens on my time. The improv drop in was about an hour. I ate lunch at my desk and did that on my work lunch. The Bhangra class was 40 min on a weekend. I might get off from work at 4:30 on a day, hop on my bike for a two hour ride, shower and make dinner by 8 and then eat and relax.

        But it really depends on work and family demands. In my case we don’t have any local family so that is simple. We spend time together as a family but also having two others means that I have a few nights off a week from cooking and some chores are taken care of by others. So some of it is time management and prioritization and some of it is the amount of free time I have.

  5. Thank you for sharing, Todd.
    Sometimes we (should be saying I though) spend time in certain things that we don’t land up accounting for. For e.g. I know I spend quite a bit of my time by talking to people on phone, something I quite consciously do. Sometime back I realized that people like to share things with me, their worries, concerns or even their wins and celebrations. So, I make sure to give people time as that is all I can do. I cannot solve their problems for them, I can only listen. Often I land up spending more time than required in this activity. Again, I stay alone so have to do everything on my own, which works both ways though. While I have no help in the daily chores, I can manage to do/not do something without having to think how that may impact somebody else. Having said all of this, I sure need to relook at my time and ascertain where I can do somethings more productive.

    1. Oh, “we” is a perfectly fine word for that habit – if only for the two of us. In my case it’s often spending time on the net so it’s not even as good as what you’re doing. You’re helping others. I’m checking my email!

      I can definitely see the advantages and disadvantages of single living. Fewer dishes to wash but fewer people to wash them, for example.

      I periodically need to look at my time use and see where the “leaks” are. I know there are lots. For example right now I probably should be outside on my bike. Instead I’m doing this and considering a nap!

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