Masala Bhangra Brings 'Spicy' Indian Dance Workout to Forest Hills

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on December 26, 2012 9:13am | Updated on December 26, 2012 9:22am

QUEENS — A spicy hot workout with roots in India is winning over fans in Queens.

Masala Bhangra — which combines traditional Indian dance with the exhilaration of Bollywood — has recently been introduced at a Forest Hills yoga studio.

“Not only can you have a good time, but you use every single muscle in your body and lose 500 to 700 calories a class,” said Liana Berman, 34, a recreational director at an assisted living facility who came to the class at BambooMoves on Queens Boulevard for the first time last week. “Can you beat that?”

“Masala” means spicy, and “bhangra” is a dance form from the Punjab region of India, the instructor, Vivian Fulton, explained at the beginning of the class.

The workout was created more than a decade ago by Sarina Jain, who is often called the "Jane Fonda of India."

Now, it has followers around the world, from Japan to Europe. There are more than 500 certified instructors — called Masala Bhangra ambassadors — who teach the workout.

The cardio-fitness dance class, Fulton said, involves a combination of bhangra, “which is a very strong male folk dance," and "a lot of flirtation and the fun” of Bollywood.

The class is exhilarating, heart-pounding and rhythmic, Fulton said.

Participants dance dynamically around the room, flirtatiously twisting their arms and shaking their heads. Every now and then the group screams enthusiastically “balle balle, ” which is a Punjabi expression used to describe a feeling of happiness.

“It’s like a belly dance on steroids,” joked Suzanne Scholten, the owner of BambooMoves.

On average, the workout burns more than 500 calories.

The class is open for both men and women, but only women came to the recent workout in Forest Hills.

“It’s a community of women, getting together and having fun,” said Lynn Negron, a belly dance instructor who is now learning Masala Bhangra. “You are powerful, beautiful… and it’s such a different environment from what you get at the gym.”

The class is also offered at other venues in Queens, including the Long Island City YMCA.

A single class at BambooMoves costs $20. The studio is located at 107-40 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, Suite 206.

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