One recent snowy, freezing Friday evening in Manhattan – the ‘first day of spring’ – I brushed off my snowboots and headed to Doonya, a Bollywood-inspired dance studio in the Flatiron District. “Who cares about the weather, because you’re in the world of Bollywood now, where it’s always sunny!” the instructor Rohan announced to the packed room of giggly, enthusiastic dancers, all buoyed by a TGIF energy and that virtuous feeling of choosing exercise over happy hour.
I’d first heard about Doonya through my mother, who was taking classes in Washington, D.C, where the dance fitness craze was originally founded eight years ago by Priya Pandya and Kajal Desal. “Doonya is some of the most fun I’ve ever had during exercise – it’s just so joyful,” my mom said. For anyone bored by the idea of jogging upright on a treadmill for hours, the light-hearted dance of Doonya feels like play, not work. Set to an infectious Bollypop soundtrack, the 60 minute class began with a brief review of simple Bollywood choreography – all the hand flicks, hip swivels, booty-shaking moves. After mastering the basics, the class progressed straight into high-speed, high-energy cardio dance numbers, with song breaks punctuated by short intervals of planks and push-ups that strengthened the core.
Some of the Doonya dance sequences were more intricate and complex, especially for a first-timer, but general positive ambience in the room made any small fumbles feel OK and just part of the process. “Your job is not to be perfect but only be human” declared a sign to my left, and this feel-good sentiment was underscored by both our upbeat teacher and the cheerful music. Occasionally, Rohan translated the (sometimes racy, always fun) Hindi lyrics, and the Doonya regulars, of which there were many, would call out requests for their favorite Bollypop songs and moves.
What more can I say? This class is the best time you’re going to have exercising this spring. You’re going to be inspired to create a whole new Bollywood music section on Spotify and covertly watch Youtube clips of Hrithik Roshan dancing all day at work. Doonya is going to take over the world!
Doonya’s NYC studio is located on the fourth floor of 1158 Broadway at 27th St. For more info, visit doonya.com.