Fifty students participating in Introduction to Contemporary Popular Dance Forms: Modern and Traditional Bhangra surprise unsuspecting Canucks fans by performing a flash mob outside Rogers Area on April 7. Flash mobs are “brief, surprise performances performed in everyday spaces, usually in crowded, urban areas” (Muse, 2010). Raakhi Sinha and Gurpreet Sian, the course instructors, chose to stage a flash mob as the course final performance to pair popular culture with Bhangra, an increasingly popular dance style.
Dancing a final exam in the streets
The performance begins with a dance sequence created and choreographed by a group of the students in the course as part of an earlier assignment. The flash mob culminates in a large-group sequence created by the course instructors that combines traditional Bhangra movements and modern stunts.
When Sinha and Sian announced that the class would be performing two flash mobs in downtown Vancouver as the final exam, the students were immediately on-board. On April 7, at the Rogers Arena, several hundred Canucks fans witnessed the first performance. Later that evening, the students surprised commuters and tourists at the corner of Granville and West Georgia with a second performance that demonstrated improved focus and execution of moves.
Learning Bhangra as a popular form of dance
These final performances are the culmination of an intense semester of studio training. Students explore both traditional Bhangra and contemporary North American trends and styles. Overall, the instructors hope students will learn about Bhangra, explore Punjabi culture, have fun, and be “proud to dance.”
Students participate in weekly studio rehearsals at SFU Woodwards with Sinha and Sian to experience and practice a corpus of Bhangra movements, tricks, and choreography. To complement the studio teaching and learning environment, Sinha and Sian use a Facebook group to post rehearsal videos, songs and inspiration to help students practice at home, and these dynamic instructors invite course participants to immerse themselves into Vancouver’s thriving Bhangra community by attending, reporting and reflecting on local performances and competitions.
The students’ enthusiasm and commitment to learning and dancing Bhangra, as well as invitations from several community organizations for performance and competition, have inspired the formation of a new Bhangra Club. Sinha and Sian are coaching the club, and they look forward to teaching Bhangra dance at SFU and hope to build on their success linking the university and the South Asian community.
What are your reactions to the students’ final performance? How do your students display or perform their learning in public for members of the wider community?