Puja Sharma had the opportunity to interview Lavesh Pritmani who is the CEO of Learn Bhangra to find out more about him and how Learn Bhangra all started.
What is Learn Bhangra?
Learn Bhangra is a dance and fitness company focused on bringing Bhangra to everyone. Our core products and offerings include our App for iOS and Android devices, teacher certifications, and conducting workshops around the world.
How did Learn Bhangra start?
To give you a little background, I am originally from North Carolina. I saw some DVDs (YouTube did not exist, I'm not that old so stop judging me) of Bruin Bhangra 03/04 when I was in high school and came up with the idea of making a Bhangra team. I took it a step further and started teaching at Natya Academy, which I ended up doing for 10 years before I moved to New York City. For the first 4 years of my Bhangra journey, I did the best I could taking what I saw from other teams and teaching it to others.
In 2009 I was very fortunate to meet my future Bhangra coach, Master Gurinderbir Chahal from Ludhiana. He moved to North Carolina and visited our academy. As soon as I saw him show us a Bhangra step, it immediately transformed the way I looked at Bhangra. His power, energy, and confidence had a profound impact on me and I knew instantly that I wanted to do justice to this style of Bhangra by spreading it in the best way I could. I wanted everyone to see how beautiful this folk dance can really be. Over the next few years, I trained under him and did my best to impart the knowledge he gave me to my own students.
However, being at a physical studio made it difficult to reach people outside North Carolina. It was one night in Feb. 2014 when my soon-to-be co-founder and friend Sundeep Madhas and I were having dinner when we came up with the idea for the App. Sandeep, being a software developer, had been itching to create an App. I was hell bent on finding a way to spread Bhangra the way my coach taught me. And thus, the concept for Learn Bhangra App was born.
Where are you based and how many are on the team?
I am from New York City but our team is global. We have corporate team members in Singapore, Spain, and USA and Brand Ambassadors in Argentina, Malaysia, Peru, Mexico, Poland, India...and many more!
What sort of Bhangra do you focus on?
Our goal is to introduce and promote Bhangra and Punjabi Folk Dancing to the world. We want to be the foundation for dancers to continue to improve and explore this beautiful folk art form and add their own creativity along the way.
I heard you will be coming to the UK to run some Bhangra workshops! When and where will you be running these?
Yes, our workshops are in London on the 9th of June at 10am and this is for kids (Lopa Dance) and on the 10th of June, we have a choreography workshop from 11am in central (Absolute Bolly) and in the afternoon we have a class in Southall (Bhangra Dance London).
In the past where have you been running workshops?
The amount of workshops over the last 3 years have been INSANE. When we first launched the App, we never realized how much appetite there is for Bhangra around the world, especially in places with small Indian/Punjabi populations. My first full-scale workshop was on a trip to Mexico City, where not a single participant was Indian.
Since late 2015, we have been to Mexico (three times), China, NYC, North Carolina, Atlanta (twice), Argentina (four times, multiple locations), Bogota, Singapore, Berlin, Warsaw, Istanbul, England (multiple locations), Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Vina Del Mar, La Paz, Los Angeles (twice), Dallas, Virginia (multiple locations), and Chicago.
What have you achieved from these?
From a business standpoint, we have achieved many incredible and unique opportunities. We have been able to help host Bhangra competitions in multiple continents, have been invited to perform at events like the 2016 Rio Olympics to weddings in Bali, and much more. From a cultural standpoint, we have created an international Bhangra community who work together and collaborate to spread our folk art to people of all different backgrounds.
What more will we be seeing from you in future?
Our certifications are rapidly growing so more instructors and locations will be announced soon. For those interested in becoming certified, check out www.learnbhangra.com/classes. Additionally, we are looking to grow into the fitness market later this year. Bhangra is not only an amazing folk dance, it also provides an awesome workout. We want people to not only enjoy the cultural aspect but also the exercise and physical as well. When done with optimal technique, the benefits are incredible.