DoonyaFit Is Taking Over Dance Fitness Classes

The Bollywood-inspired dance class may be the next Zumba.

Co-creator Kajal Desai leads a class of DhoonyaFit, a Bollywood-inspired dance class. Photograph by Andrew Wilson.

If you’ve ever sat mesmerized through a Bollywood film, silently wishing it were you onscreen showing off your killer dance moves, DoonyaFit might be the perfect workout for you.

On the other hand, if you have two left feet, don’t despair—DoonyaFit may still be the perfect routine-busting workout for you.

DoonyaFit was created by Kajal Desai and Priya Pandya in early 2010. Thanks to its cardio components, it was added to the repertoire of Doonya Dance, a Bollywood-inspired dancing school that offers classes in New York City and the Washington area.

“We started DoonyaFit when we realized so many students were coming to our dance classes not just to learn Bollywood dance, but to find fun and exciting ways to get some exercise,” says Desai.

I arrived at the Saffron Dance studio in Arlington a bit early, and a bit apprehensive. As someone whose dancing career peaked (okay, more like tanked) at the early age of four, I wasn’t feeling too confident.

The class was made up of about 12 people, including one guy, barefoot and outfitted in regular workout clothes. Desai, the managing director for Washington, greeted the class, then started us off with a few warmup cardio moves, such as step touches, heel lifts, and grapevines to get our heart rates up and work the muscles we’d be using later. We then moved into more complex moves, such as Bhangra kicks and flick steps, which reminded me of a Zumba class with an added element of grace.

Each routine is choreographed to a mix of Bollywood and contemporary pop songs and targets different muscle groups. The class is designed to be a full-body workout and incorporates many classical conditioning steps with a “Bollywood twist.” Toe taps, for example, become “Bolly-taps” when you add a hip drop and an additional focus on the obliques.

Though the moves didn’t come naturally to me, Desai’s energy and obvious passion for Doonya Dance gave the class the encouragement to get through even the most exhausting routines. Her instructions to push through “one more song” seemed to come at the exact moments I felt like quitting. I left the studio out of breath and drenched in sweat, having worked much harder than I anticipated coming into a dance class.

Desai says her goal for all Donya classes is to give participants the opportunity to learn about a new culture, let go of their inhibitions, and work towards their individual fitness goals.

“I have noticed that in DC, people are generally healthy, but they aren’t all happy,” says Desai. “The stress of living in an area with so many social, political, and financial pressures makes it that much more necessary to give them a release. That is our goal with Dhoonya Dance and DoonyaFit.”

Classes are held in four Virginia locations, one DC location and one Maryland location. A single class costs $20, or you can purchase passes for five, ten, or unlimited classes. Visit Doonya Dance’s website for a full schedule and pricing details.