2013 – I was in Pushkar, Rajasthan with a photography club to shoot the famous camel fair which is an annual affair. My first impression was that there are more photographers than camel 😉
At the opening ceremony of the festivities, I was all set to watch a performance of the traditional Kalbelia dance – Kalbelia are the tribals of Rajasthan and perform an extremely dextrous dance form which involves flexing and contorting the body in unbelievable poses. They wear gorgeous jewellery and garb which distinguishes them from rest of Rajasthan! It’s also known as the sapera or the snake charmer’s dance and is characterised by sensuous dance movements, involving some acrobatic ones too.
You can read more about this dance here
I spied the dancers from afar in their vividly coloured dance attire and moved forward to catch a better glimpse and take some photographs.
I was in for a shock!!!
These were not Kalbelia women or even Rajasthani women but Japanese ladies, each so gorgeous and looking dapper in the ethnic get up. The bodla (or the forehead ornament) looked so right on them, along with the odhni ( fabric draped over the head) and the traditional skirt or the Ghaghra with its wide circumference which looks gorgeous when the dancer twirls.!!! I was surprised to see them balance the metal urns on their heads and caper so gracefully.
I got talking to the leader of their troupe and it conspired that they have an Indian manager who got them over from Japan, arranged for the dance training and then booked them at gigs in hotels, etc to perform all over India and even abroad. (I prayed that he was taking care of the girls and that they were not being exploited in anyways)
Well! I was blown away not just by their beauty but also by how coolly they managed the Indian wear and moved in it too. They agreed to allow me to shoot their closeups and my camera loved their mesmerizing frolics.
The best was yet to come! Once they started dancing, I couldn’t take my eyes off them – they were spinning in gay abandon and looked to be enjoying themselves thoroughly. I tried to get as many good shots as I could manage of them gyrating to the drum beats. It’s challenging for me (as an Indian) to pick up these dance moves and here were these women from a foreign land who had mastered this demanding dance form with such repose and supinity.
And when they started doing the onerous backward dips, my jaw dropped even further and I am lucky the camera didn’t – for a moment I forgot to click and just watched them in stunned appreciation as they declined lower and lower. Their happy faces were a testament to how much they were loving it. Their sense of rhythm and acrobatic flexibility was unmistakable.
This is one of the most astounding sight that I have come across in my travels in India. Who could have imagined Japanese women conquering a formidable dance form like the Kalbeliya and rollicking to it in the hot sands of Pushkar? Not me for sure!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
What did you think of this? Have you ever seen the traditional Kalbeliya being performed?
Killer K is coming up – so stay tuned
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