Bhangra traditions kept alive at Winnipeg dance academy

Diljeet Brar isn’t against a modern mash-up of Bhangra moves with hip hop, Ukrainian dance, contemporary or any other dance style per se. 

What he doesn’t want to see, however, is the watering down of traditional Bhangra until all tradition is lost. 

“This is how we learn about our past. We learn about our crops. We learn about our way of life,” said Brar, who founded the dance academy Bulla Arts International nine years ago.  

“While we need to evolve and add new things to our traditions and dances, at the same time, it’s very important to preserve our original rhythms and steps,” said Brar, who is also the MLA for Burrows.

A man with beard wears a burgundy turban and white Punjabi suit. His arms are raised above his head and he is dancing in the middle of a circle of school-age children outside.
Bhangra instructor Diljeet Brar is dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of Punjab folk dances to younger generations. (Fateh Brar)

The dance academy, which has live drummers in some classes rather than recorded music, focuses on teaching its young students steps and movements that go back generations.

It’s a method other teachers support. 

Seven school-age kids in a circle practise dance moves in a classroom. A man wearing a black turban bangs a traditional Punjabi drum at the back of the classroom.
Students with Bulla Arts International practice traditional folk dances with the help of a drummer. (Fateh Brar)

“Learning on [live] folk beats is much better than on [recorded music] because, first of all, it makes your basics stronger … as well as it connects you back to your roots,” said Rachhvir Dhaliwal, a dance teacher at Bulla Arts International in Winnipeg. 

The academy hosts its ninth annual talent show on June 30 in Winnipeg. Students will perform several forms of Bhangra.