Sangeet - How to Dress (and Dance) at an Indian wedding

2011 Apr 14 - by Preeti
This is another wonderful post made by Sabina at Orientalista who not just came to the wedding but danced too! She first wrote about bangle and bracelet shopping in India. I'm thrilled to have her share her Sangeet experience and below it's translated.


This summer Preeti pointed at me and said, "You dance!" and I nodded in the affirmative. "Everyone has to dance or sing" she said. So I was prepared a choreography and packed a blue dance dress in the suitcase. Once in place, it was the first Indian mannerisms a little unclear where and when I would dance but I headed to Sangeet with costume and accessories in a bag and checked out the situation.

At the hall where the Sangeet took place there were already musicians, singers and dancers. So I snuck into the locker room and greeted the other dancers (which of course looked curiously at me).

It is worth mentioning now is that before any "foreigners" went to India we had a 30-pages thick guide of good things to know, take away and prepare for. And one point was "no cleavage", ie we did not dress low-cut tops that made our boobs visible ... And if there is anything, my blue outfit doing with my breasts, so it is to churn out a big cleavage. It created the course, some anxiety and nervousness, of how fun it is to dance for an audience who has beliefs about dressing immodestly?!

While I stood and mingled with the rest of the guests and tried to play totally unaffected, the show started.

You may fast forward to the end of this film to see the first dance, and scout the movement in her fingers! Wooa, like waves! But the clip also includes Indian wedding clothes and generally mingle if you want to spy on it.

... and this continues the show! Lots of dancing with live music and singing. I am so happy that these clips are, because then I get a chance to see what I missed when I dressed.

At the front of the audience sat the couple and their relatives. Thereafter it was mostly Indians, while all the foreigners (Swedes, Americans, Italians, Icelanders and others) stood and pushed in the back of the hall. About 250 people total in the audience. As soon as I had thrown away my veil after the slow entrance number Fans were far more vocal than in the films above. They clapped, they whistled, they were dancing and I even got a WOLF WHISTLE (from the provincial older Indian gentleman at the bar). It did not matter that I had to improvise the second half of the song (it was so funny that I forgot it) but no one seemed to mind.

It was an adrenaline shock was total and when I finally drew up people to dance and a moment later snuck off the stage continued apparently people dance like crazy. Good luck! The show then continued with a few more numbers before it switched to a short dance floor. Behind the curtain, I hugged the great dancers. One of the dancers is learning to belly dance, and her teacher has the same name as me. Cool!

But the second shock came later, when the show was over and the sound engineers were about to pack up. It started with a little girl came forward and shyly said that I danced well and thanked me. A moment later a man came up and introduced his family and told me about their daughter who has started taking dance lessons. Since it came up a couple of elderly ladies, and so it went. The entire remainder of the evening.

Two hours it took for me to get to the buffet and eat because so many people wanted to talk to me and tell me that I was "too good." I even got comments from people who had not seen me perform because they either arrived late or was out to fetch food. Even the bride's mother said that my dancing had exceeded all her expectations.

It was probably the combination of a complete surprise and that one of the foreign guests flown in to dance surprised the Indian guests. Several commented specifically that there was something new and "something else". And "too good", "too good," a well used Indian expression. But even the other foreign guests were happy, few knew that I would perform but had never seen me before.

It was definitely a cool experience in so many different ways.