LONDON: An Indian-origin dancer who transformed his dance classes into free Bhangracise sessions online to help people stay fit during the coronavirus lockdown has bagged a Points of Light honour from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Rajeev Gupta, who believes bhangra offers an "upbeat, energetic and infectious" way of exercising, began the lockdown with a mission to stay active and positive through the traditional Indian dance form and went on to share that spirit through social media live streams.
Last month, it resulted in earning him the honour of being a Point of Light, an honour conferred every weekday by the UK prime minister to outstanding volunteers and people making a change in their community.
"Over the last few months, your online bhangra classes have brought a surge of energy to participants across the country and beyond, lifting the bodies and souls of thousands who have been staying at home during our battle against coronavirus," said Johnson, in a personal letter, addressed to Gupta.
"You have been a Point of Light for so many during this difficult time, and so I am delighted to be able to recognise you in this way," he said.
The prime minister has in the past referred to his own enjoyment of bhangra and other Indian dance forms during family weddings in India when he was married to his ex-wife Marina Wheeler, who has Punjabi roots on her mother Dip Kaur's side.
"I feel blessed to have been in a position to have helped people during the lockdown with my Bhangracise sessions," said Gupta.
"I'm truly grateful to get this award. I would have never thought it would have made such a powerful impact," he said.
Gupta has run Bhangracise for over 15 years, holding regular dance fitness classes in Manchester, Birmingham and Reading, and has also performed at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.
He also taught professional dancers about bhangra on BBC's popular 'Strictly Come Dancing' show.
With lockdown shutting down physical classes, the dance enthusiast decided to post an online video, which attracted over 100,000 views, and he has since been running free dance workouts three times a week for thousands of people across the world.