Picture the scene. It’s a Wednesday night. That midweek slump has firmly kicked in and your sofa is calling. It’s also Valentine’s Day. If you don’t have plans to be out, then you’re definitely staying in. And yet, in a studio in the center of San Francisco, over 30 people are dancing their hearts out to the best of Bollywood beats. There are similar classes going on up and down the country. This is dance fitness. This is community. This is Doonya.
Finding a place to belong is a tough job, at the best of times. In a city like San Francisco, it’s even harder. Most people have moved for work, from other parts of the country, or indeed other parts of the world (hey there, fellow Brits). They might find a natural set of friends in their coworkers. They might know one or two other people outside of that. But there is something transformational about a bunch of strangers coming together at the same time every week to work out. Conversations start off polite and usually about the weather. It is the Bay Area, after all. But they quickly evolve. Strangers become friends. Friends, like family. Because there is no greater feeling than moving in sync with dozens of people, all there to get fit, be healthy and have fun.
We’re here for the workout and, boy, what a workout. It’s 55 minutes of non-stop training. Bollywood, bhangra, village folk, classical. If it’s a ‘super hit’, you can be sure we’re sweating to it. Class is for everyone - men and women, dance pros and dance newbies. First-timers become long-timers. Long-timers become instructors. Some of us have even Doonya-ed our way through a pregnancy (or two!) and got ourselves back into shape with some well-choreographed shimmies.
But what really makes this class is our instructor, Palak. Her unique combination of high energy, on-point instructions and swag, inspire us all to push through our physical - and mental - barriers. In other workouts, instructors often begin with a message for the class to focus on. In our classes, Palak is the message. A phenomenal force of nature. Every week she brings it. And in doing so, makes us think about how we can bring it too. Not just for ourselves, in class. But beyond the studio, for our families and others around us.
Which brings me back to where I started. This is dance fitness. This is community. This is Doonya.
Priya has been attending Doonya classes since she moved to San Francisco four years ago. She recently became a licensed instructor (though is currently on a teaching hiatus after having her second child). This post was inspired by a class Priya attended with Palak Sheth as instructor in February 2018