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.
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.