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Teaching Germans the Indian dances I grew up with (with video)

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Teaching Germans the Indian dances I grew up with

By Amrapali Zaveri

I come from the Indian city of Pune, but my parents are from Gujarat, a state in the northwest of India. As a Gujarathi, since childhood I’ve been doing their traditional folk dance “Dandiya Raas and Garba”, which involves dancing with sticks, clapping and turning. In Germany, I work as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leipzig, but have also found the time to take up the challenge of teaching German women the moves of my beloved dance.

The women wear traditional dresses such as colorful embroidered choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas, which is the traditional attire, dazzling with mirror work and heavy jewellery. The dancers whirl and move their feet and arms in a choreographed manner to the tune of the music with a lot of drum beats.

They are seven women learning the combination of “Dandiya” and “Garba”, which is quite intricate…

Dandiya Raas originated in Vrindavan by Lord Krishna, where it was performed in Goddess Durga‘s honour. This dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between the Goddess and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king, and is nicknamed “The Sword Dance”. The sticks (dandiyas) of the dance represent the swords of Durga.

Garba also originated in the state of Gujarat. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term Garbha (“womb”) and Deep (“a small earthenware lamp”). Many traditional garbas are performed around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of the Goddess Durga. Either the lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess Durga (also called Amba) is placed in the middle of concentric rings as an object of veneration. The main difference between Garba and Raas is that Raas is played with Dandiyas (pair of colorfully decorated sticks), while Garba consists of various hand and feet movements. During the Navratri festival, in most of the cities of Gujarat people gather and perform the Dandiya and Garba dance.

Practicing twice a week for almost two hours each day, step-by-step, the women learned the intricacies of the footwork, how to hold the dandiyas, formations and the energy that is part of these dances. The best part was making up a story and naming the steps like “where are you”, “peacock” and “shy shy” to remember the sequence. 🙂 After almost three weeks of hard work, all of them performed this dance, with the traditional costumes and Dandiyas, at the Tanzfest of the Leipzig Allee-Center. They danced to the Bollywood song “Nagada Sang Dhol Baaje,” from a film called “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela”. Spectators surrounded the stage or peered over from the first floor of the mall, enjoying the beautiful colorful dresses, the interesting dance moves with the dandiyas and the energy that the dance resonated. Some were even clapping along and cheering!

To feel the energy and experience it live, you can find us performing at the Leipzig Sommerfest und Trödelmarkt, Zweinaundorferstraße 18, this Saturday, July 4th. If interested in learning the dance, please contact Amrapali Zaveri via e-mail.

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