Doonya classes offer fitness as Bollywood dance party

Doonya dance

Doonya, which combines high-energy aerobics and conditioning with the hip-swaying, arm-swirling exuberance of Indian folk, pop and classical dance, is a Bollywood-based workout that experts say can be fun and effective.

Named for the Hindi word for world, Doonya is the brainchild of two fitness instructors who tapped their heritage for inspiration. It draws on the infectious song and dance numbers popularized by the prolific Hindi-film industry based in Mumbai, nicknamed Bollywood, where movies usually feature intricate love sagas and plot twists.

"Our parents are from India so it was a way of connecting with our roots," said Priya Pandya, a New Jersey native who created the workout with Mississippian Kajal Desai. "We grew up learning dance. We both wanted to bring Bollywood dance to the world."

Doonya classes are held in the Washington, D.C. area and in New York City and will launch in Los Angeles next month. A DVD is due for release in February.

Jessica Matthews, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), said in addition to being addictive and fun, dance fitness classes can provide an effective workout.

Research studies sponsored by ACE on Zumba, a Latin-based dance workout, and Qi Dance, which merges the Eastern concept of Qi with world music, found them to be sound fitness routines.

"These modalities do elicit cardio-respiratory response. You can gain lean muscle mass, and when there's a core sequence it can strengthen that area of the body," she said. "Dance fitness really resonates with some people. They get hooked on it and form communities around it."


Pandya, a yoga teacher, said the one-hour Doonya classes are carefully structured to ensure a full-body workout.

"We always make sure there's a warm up," she explained. "Then there's the peak of the class with the most intense cardio. Finally as you slowly come down there's more conditioning and a cool down."

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