UPBEAT, energetic and infectious. That’s how an Earley man describes his award-winning exercise classes, Bhangracise.
Rajeev Gupta began lockdown on a mission to stay active and positive through the dance form
of Bhangra, while encouraging others to do the same.
The keen dancer, who usually runs classes at Reading’s Indian Community Centre, used social media to live-stream free sessions three times a week.
And the streams were so popular that they even caught Downing Street’s eye.
Rajeev says: “Having started the streams to keep myself occupied during lockdown, I’d never expected them to go viral.
“At their peak my videos received 20,000 views including people from America, Australia and New Zealand.
“On Monday, July 13, I received a call from 10 Downing Street to say I’d won a Points of Light Award.
“These are awarded to volunteers making a difference in their community, so it is an honour to receive one alongside people such as Joe Wicks and Captain Tom.”
Rajeev adds: “Following my call, I received a letter from the Prime Minister in which he called me a ‘surge of light’. I’ve also been told to expect an official award soon.”
“It was such a special moment.”
Rajeev’s Bhangracise classes combine the traditional Indian dance style with energetic routines and motivational commentary from the dancer himself.
The sessions feature a range of upbeat songs and have covered themes including the 80s and Bollywood where dancers were invited to dress up.
The dancing enthusiast says: “The word Bhangracise came from my Mum who always encouraged my brother and I to dance and stay active as kids.
“The term encapsulates the energetic, inclusive nature of the style which is why I think it’s appealed to such a wide audience.
“I’ve had feedback from people saying how it has kept them going during lockdown and brought life to their households.
“Some viewers dance along, some watch it from their sofa, others have it in the background while making dinner.
“Surprisingly, I have had more non-Asian and non-Indian viewers watching than members of the
“My streams have attracted such a diverse crowd including people from all backgrounds.”
Rajeev says that a challenge accompanied his huge growth in following. He said: “As my Facebook followers grew from 800 to 10,000 and I hit 1,000 subscribers on YouTube I was determined to keep each session unique and give viewers something new to look forward to each time.
“Throughout the four months I was constantly innovating my songs and moves to keep the streams exciting.
“As someone who has always loved entertaining, I found myself giving a commentary and chatting to viewers throughout which they’ve said they love.
“I think they like the sense of personality that comes with the streams, rather than them being basic step by step classes.”
And although Rajeev’s streams are free, he has used some of the sessions to raise money for charities including NHS Charities Together and Cardiac Risk in the Young.
He says: “Bhangra is an excellent cardiovascular workout so I chose a charity which links closely to what the dance form is about.
“I also wanted to give something back to the frontline workers who have helped us through this difficult period.”
Since hosting his final lockdown session, Rajeev has made the decision to start Zoom sessions which dancers can join on a paid-for basis.
The virtual classes will each feature 15- to 20-people and be a chance for students to gain tips on their dancing technique, while becoming part of a close-knit community.
“I’m sad to be ending my live streams but excited for this next step,” he says.
“Those interested in the Zooms should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, while those who prefer the streams can continue to watch them back on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
“This has been a huge highlight of my lockdown and what better way to celebrate the experience than with an award from Boris Johnson himself?”
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in the studio, but for now any funds I get from the Zoom sessions will be going towards a new carpet for my home.
“All this dancing has worn it out.”
While not travelling between Earley and Manchester to teach classes, Rajeev works as a producer and reporter for the BBC.
For more information about Rajeev’s Bhangracise classes visit www.bhangracise.co.uk/ or search Bhangracise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.