The enticing beat, movement and unique sound of bhangra hold a special place in many of our hearts. And now it’s being celebrated in the creation of the world’s first ‘visual dictionary’ of movements from this beautiful art form.

Bhangra Lexicon is a series of images compiled by World Bhangra Day founder and Huddersfield-based dancer, Hardeep Sahota who has explored, documented and catalogued 300 dance movements and gestures from Bhangra and its sub-genres. With ‘light painting’ photography by Tim Smith, the idea is to create a unique record that gathers together a rich body of knowledge, ensuring its preservation for future generations.

The photographs are available to view online in a virtual exhibition by Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which grew out of Sahota’s initial research into the type of dance and music that originated in the Panjab, by farming communities during the spring harvest festival of Vaisakhi. Its driving force is the Dhol, a large double-sided, barrel-shaped drum.

To achieve the ‘light painting’ effect, dancers from a number of different disciplines – including Irish dancing and breakdancing as well as bhangra – performed key moves whilst holding coloured lights in semi-darkness, so that every nuance of their actions can be traced using long exposure photography.

Captured in the evening at the Park and other locations across Yorkshire, the result is a series of atmospheric images that give physical, even sculptural, form to the fleeting nature of the dance. The flowing movements translate into bright, almost calligraphic strokes.

Interestingly, ‘light painting’ usually doesn’t reveal the person performing the action; in this case, Sahota wanted the performers to be seen, showing their costumes and cultural identities – something he says play an equally important role in the project. To see more, visit ysp.org.uk.

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