Dancing in Delhi: Alesha Wallabh

As a dance student, inevitably I love to watch the way people communicate, how people hold themselves within these conversations and our body language in these moments. I sometimes do feel like a people watcher; however, I do find the greatest joy in watching the genuine smiles, the laughs, and the dancing arms as conversations flow in and out of happiness, sadness, or confusion and anger. 

My experience in Delhi varied tremendously from my experience in Mumbai and I think that’s when I realised the most that every state, every city, every village is so different from the other and just by stepping into each of these places, it can often feel like you are stepping in to a new country in itself. I have been to many corporate visits, NGO’S, businesses, temples, buildings, sites, and I have had a sensory overload in every single city I have been to. I find myself naturally reflecting more upon experiences, stories, and interactions with people as opposed to my thoughts on a particular business, NGO, etc. That is exactly what I am going to share here, my experience with Dancing in Delhi.

A photo near Connaught Place after the dance circle.

Delhi, the first immediate difference from coming from Bangalore was that people were far more curious and intrigued about us. They looked at us more, they stopped to take selfies with us more, and they were incredibly curious about who we were, and what we were doing. I’m not sure if this is because Delhi is increasingly popular amongst tourists as it is close to many tourist attractions and sites, or whether this is the culture, or perhaps we just looked like a friendly, diverse bunch. The very first day we arrived in Delhi we decided to explore the markets and before the markets we explored Connaught Place, a park that resembled the energy of Albert Park in Auckland but times the amount of people by 50%. Walking around we saw families sitting on the grass, friends taking photos of each other, a few tourists here and there, and then we saw a group of perhaps fifty people with loud music. As the young curious travelers we are, we decided to explore what looked like a mini garden rave. We stood along the outskirts of this dance circle and watched what looked like students, holding a speaker and using the public place as a place to dance, enjoy, and connect to each other. As a dance student, I was incredibly curious, and felt at home. There were three women amongst the fifty people and the rest were men. They called me to dance and the inner dancer in me struggled to say no, but I had to be responsible in that moment. My male friend was called in, and that is when I decided it would be safe to go and have a groove. As soon as we went in the energy increased, these students were so excited and happy to be dancing with some foreign students and there were a lot of cameras around. I would not be surprised if we were a top viewed video on Youtube or are being forwarded around on Whatsapp around India. As I went to leave, the women in the group pulled my arm and asked me to stay for one more song. The men all backed away and it was a Bollywood “item number”, a music and dance piece that is often performed by an actress and is often very provocative and a part of the Bollywood industry I don’t agree with or am particularly fond of. Their movements changed, they were exploring the same types of movements as the music video and it was in this moment, I decided to leave the dance circle and my friend joined me. It was in this moment, when I realised how much of an invisible yet visible impact Bollywood has on society, the way we move, the men surrounding the women and watching them dance provocatively, the underlying acceptance that this is okay. 

The dance circle in Connaught Place

Dancing in Delhi was a very powerful experience, and one that gave me an experience that confirmed one of my concerns, how does the Bollywood industry and objectification of women in this industry inform society and the way in which we dance, communicate, and accept what is happening around us. It taught me that it is important to enjoy these beautiful moments, the joy, the celebration, but it’s also okay to question, to notice, and to feel uncomfortable by what is happening.

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