What is South Asian dance?


A guide to Garba

Garba is a form of folk dance that originated in the state of Gujarat in India. Traditionally, it is performed during the nine-day Hindu festival of Navaratri. Either the lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess, Durga is placed in the middle of concentric rings as an object of worship. It is a joyful style of dance, based on a circular pattern and characterized by a sweeping action from side to side.

Garba performances often include singing and a musical accompaniment traditionally provided by dhol (double-headed drum) and the similar but smaller dholak; hand clapping; and assorted metallic idiophones, such as cymbals. Both men and women usually wear colorful costumes while performing garba.

South Asian dancer in ornate dress performing at a street festival
Garba dancer during Akademi at Devonshire Square Diwali, 2022. Photo by Simon Waller. Courtesy of Camden Council and the Akademi archives.

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