Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri has everyone talking—and if you’re like us, you were gushing over her talent competition performance. Her classical-Bollywood fusion dance stole the show and may have helped her clinch the crown, making her the first Indian-American to do so in the competition's 92-year history.
Wearing a colorful bejeweled outfit and ankle bells, the 24-year-old from Syracuse, NY, wowed audiences with her high-energy minute-and-a-half routine (if you missed it, watch it here) set to the song “Dhoom Taana” from the 2007 Bollywood blockbuster Om Shanti Om. The power-packed piece was choreographed by Nakul Dev Mahajan, who also created an equally magnetic number to the same song for the Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance (Bollywood's first national platform) in 2008 (see that one here).
While Mahajan added more classical movements for her—Davuluri is well-trained in Bharatanatyam, a traditional style of Indian dance—he didn't make it easy for her. The heart-pumping routine included multiple explosive jump squats, swift side lunges, and a hard-to-forget twirling sequence of step squats on her knees. That explains how she got those abs!
Like all forms of dance, Bollywood is a serious workout, which is why around 2010, two passionate Indian performers, Kajal Desai and Priya Pandya, transformed their five-year-old dance company Doonya (Hindi word for “world”) into an intense Bollywood-based fitness program in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since then, ACE-certified Desai and yoga-certified Pandya have started to spread their program to more cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. They also released a three-disc DVD workout series in February, plus created streaming videos of their cool choreographed workouts online.
“When we saw Davuluri's performance we were just so excited and proud. Our mission with Doonya is to make Bollywood more accessible to the world," Pandya says. Here's why a Bollywood dance-style workout is for you.
It's not just a dance, it's a story. Everything Bollywood comes from a film. Like a Broadway musical, every number is a narrative, so the dancers are playing characters who are helping move along the plot. “This is what makes it so fun and why hand movements and gestures are important,” Pandya says. “People are coming just as much for the top-40 Bollywood songs as they are for the dance moves.”
Anyone can be a Bollywood star. From Davuluri's performance, it's obvious that cardio endurance is key, but you can build up to it. Doonya offers four styles to help make it less intimidating to get started: Bolly-Pop (targets abs and obliques), Classical Conditioning (hones core, balance, and flexibility), Pop Bhangra, and Folk (the last two focus on cardio and lower body). “We have some fast-paced routines that have lots of jumps, but we also offer workouts that really slow down so that you can engage your muscles as you sit into different poses,” Desai says.
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Feel the Bollywood burn. A sweat-inducing hour-long class, complete with hip swaying, twirling, squats, and jumps, could blast up to 600 calories. "In New York City, we did this three-month challenge where we had students track their results. Through that we saw people lose eight to 10 inches off of their bodies and drop 20 to 30 pounds," Pandya says.
Ready to give Doonya a shot? Try the workout below.