NORTH America’s only bhangra dance class for university credit is back at Simon Fraser University this semester after a three-year hiatus.

The course, called FPA 120, Introduction to Contemporary Popular Dance Forms: Modern and Traditional Bhangra, was filled to capacity by the third day of registration for SFU’s spring term. Fifty students have registered and 20 more are waitlisted.

“The popularity of the class has been mind-blowing,” says course instructor Gurpreet Sian. “The course is unique because it’s a cultural dance form that’s being offered by a top university. People are so excited to learn about a different culture, work out and have some fun.”

“By learning bhangra, students are opening themselves up to trying something new. That’s a very important part of their education. The class helps push people out of their comfort zone and embrace new skills.”

Bhangra is a lively traditional folk dance that originated in the Punjab region of India. Farmers celebrated a good harvest by taking the moves they did in the fields and turning them into songs. Nowadays, bhangra is a high-energy dance style that fuses traditional Punjab instruments with Western pop music.

The class comprises students who are majoring in a wide range of programs, including computer science, health sciences and business. No formal dance training is required and students of all abilities are encouraged to put their best foot forward.

“Some people will really excel, but that’s the same with anything, whether it’s dance or calculus,” explains Sian. “What we’re really looking for is students who have a great attitude and the majority of the marks are based on participation.”

The multicultural mix of students reflects the dance form’s worldwide appeal. “The course is very culturally diverse,” says Sian.

In fact, there are no South Asian students in the class. The students who are there say they want to expand their horizons and explore the rich history and culture of bhangra.

Tianyi Cui, a business major who is trained in traditional Chinese dancing, leapt at the chance to immerse herself in a different culture.

“I love to dance and I really wanted to try something new,” she says. “For a woman, (bhangra) is challenging; that’s why I wanted to try it. It’s a really high-energy, powerful dance.”

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