Dandia Raas

The sticks (dandias)…I bought a pair of cloth (green and red) and ribbon (gold) covered wooden sticks for $4 at the Vibha Dandia Raas last night and ended up bringing back a mismatched pair, one of which seems to have seen many such dances. Perhaps it is Supriya’s, who brought a pair that she’d gotten a year ago at one of these events. The other type of sticks for sale were made of metal, and painted – pink, purple, blue, green, etc. These “sticks” became bent as the evening wore on, and left stains on the hands of the bearers. The really serious dancers brought their own wooden sticks, some plain, cut-off dowels, others painted and tapered.

Supriya instigated the group attendance at Friday night’s Dandia, and Paras sent us the link to this particular one, a benefit for Vibha at Cubberly Community Center in Palo Alto. Paras was there in a cream-colored, elegant kurta and a black lungi (pre-stiched), with one bent (pink) metal “stick”. Clearly a veteran, he could dance the steps in his sleep. Supriya showed up in a beautiful lehenga choli, a diaphonous multi-hued skirt and dupatta with a blue blouse – just an old thing that she’s had forever… Sridhar met us there. Trishna came in a silk dark blue and green bhandani lehenga choli and brought a friend, Gaurav. Deep was home sick (again). Supriya and I got a ride from one of her colleagues, Anand Mehta and his wife Monica. Sunil caught hell from Supriya for showing up in a shirt and black jeans. Roopa had on a beautiful yellow lehenga choli – the front of which was covered in small mirrors. They brought the sticks that they had from their wedding. Neerav brought all 4 of his roommates.

First we practiced with the 5-step version, before moving on to the 11-step, with Trishna and Supriya leading us. Trishna looked incredible – whirling and twirling the sticks. Later she led a garba revolt while sticks were flying all around, trying to widen the circle as she danced. (After her wedding garba, her calfs were so stiff she could barely move.) I got pulled into another dandia group dancing right in front of the stage (and speakers!) after I abandoned the garba circle. Back to 5-step.

The sticks again…Some people hit your sticks hard, some barely tap your stick, while others miss on purpose. Some people use only one stick, while holding two. Others rotate the way they hit, once with the right hand, once with the left, sometimes with both, one in each hand, other times with both in one hand.

The music gets faster and faster and faster and faster. I can see how people do this for all 10 days of Navratri…


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