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Kid Music Series: Bollywood and Bhangra Dance

Updated on November 28, 2015

Magic in Movement

The more kids are exposed to music from different cultures, the less 'weird' or 'strange' they think it is. There are many ways to develop empathy in children like taking care of animals and visiting the sick or elderly. Many times kids hear music or see art from different cultures and just pack it away in their brain as mildly interesting but nothing they can relate to. Our survival as a planet is dependent on us being able to reach out and share with other people and cultures in an empathetic way.

One way to teach empathy with music is to expose them to new things in an exciting and participatory way. That means MOVEMENT.

It started with toddlers twirling.

The rich history of music from India stretches from the traditional to modern. Where to start with kids?When my daughters were toddlers, we'd dress up in long colorful dresses and skirts. I would play The Best of Bollywood CD and we'd have a little dancing party. During the summer with the windows open, I would wonder what my neighbors were thinking but we tried not to play the music too loud. They never complained.

This is the CD

The Best of Bollywood
The Best of Bollywood

This CD has most of the example songs from above. Lata Mangeshkar is the most famous singer for Hindi Films and she is well represented in this collection.

West Music 27" Hemmed Square Movement Scarves Set
West Music 27" Hemmed Square Movement Scarves Set

We used a couple sets of these for classes.


What is Bollywood?


Brief Definition of the Term Bollywood

Bollywood is the name for the Hindi Film Industry based in Mumbai (Bombay). The name is derivative of the name we have for the U.S. Film Industry in Los Angeles- Hollywood. Many Bollywood films, especially in the past had elaborate and exciting dance and singing numbers to accompany the story.I eventually brought this music and dance style into my classes at the community arts center and in the public school.

What is Bhangra?


Brief Definition of the Term Bhangra

I started using an exercise DVD called Masala Bhangra Workout which had aerobic exercises based on my new exciting favorite Indian Music -Bhangra!Bhangra dance roots are from folk dances in the Punjabi district of India. This boisterous dance with strong drums is combined with Western style influences and modern instruments to make what we know as Modern Bhangra.

Masala Bhangra Workout, Vol. 3 ...Bollywood Style
Masala Bhangra Workout, Vol. 3 ...Bollywood Style

Fun DVD. Workout is very aerobic. Some of the explaining of the steps goes a little too fast. Enjoyable moves however.


School Dance Concert

I taught General Music in a public city lower elementary school (K-2). Our first grade dance concert included dances from around the world. Each class did a different country. We had no budget, so there were no costumes, but each group had an accessory like scarves or colorful bandanas. We used sheer scarves for the Bhangra. I threaded the scarf through a small hair band and students put the 'ring' of the band through their middle or ring finger with the scarf trailing. This helped to keep scarves from flying out of their hands!I am not an expert dancer but I'm a decent arranger.

Taking ideas from videos of Indian dancers and my Bhangra exercise tape, I came up with a 2 minute Indian Bhangra dance (Bollywood style) that brought the house down. My dance steps were adapted for first graders knowing that I'd only get 5 rehearsals.

Here's a description of the basic dance steps. I picked songs that had definite sections partitioned in the music so the cues were easy to follow. As a teacher, I knew it wasn't going to be perfect with everyone in step but it would be dazzling and fun. The movement basis is that the feet move on the quarter notes. 1 2 3 4 and the arms and hands move to the eighth note beats 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. This was a great exercise for first graders and a great practice in coordination too.

Bhangra (Bollywood Style)

Note: Video stills are of the evening concert which did not have all 22 students from the class. Stills are purposely granulated for privacy. Property of Tom Hayden, used by permission.

Intro: Students stand in one line across the stage facing away from the audience with hands up and elbows bent. The intro music starts and at the drum cue, they spin around.

Dance Move Number 1

used with permission
used with permission | Source
  1. Hands are angled back as elbows move up and down to the eighth notes. Feet cross in front of each other in place: left foot step then back, right foot step then back, etc on the quarter notes.
  2. This is a push motion with right hand and right foot with the left foot remaining in place as you make a half circle going from left to right. Switch rotation and do the same movement with the left hand and left foot.
  3. The 'Swoop.' Half crouch and slide to the right sideways step by step, both hands arched up with scarves moving. At end of eight measures, reverse and go to the left.
  4. Haripa right hand on right hip, feet together and left hand up in a curved position. The two feet jump together scooting to the right. At the end of eight measures, switch arms and scoot to left.


used with permission
used with permission | Source

5. Punjabi boy 1 In a half squat position, knees bent, legs wide apart feet move slowly forward left then right, etc. Elbows bent up hands in fists pumping the air.

6. Punjabi boy 2 Feet together remaining in place. Fisted hands swing high then low on the eighth notes, like the mashed potato dance. Sort of like a drumming motion.

7. Twirl

Twirl and Swirl

used with permission
used with permission | Source

Inspiration From YouTube - Can't Watch Without Moving!

Dance teachers, if you have any tips for me, I would love to hear them.

Take a Dance Journey

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