Sonepur Mela Dance Shows



When it gets dark the facades of the large theatres staging dance shows light up. Soon queues of excited men form at the entrances and security guards with wooden sticks keep them in order. Men with tickets in their hands impatiently wait to see young girls dancing on the stage. After 6pm the gates open and everybody rushes to get best seats – closer to the stage means being closer to the girls. A barbed wired fence separates the stage from rows of battered chairs. Around 8pm the show finally starts. Bollywood songs are played on full volume and the excitement culminates. A large group of 20-30 girls dances on the stage to the music of Indian hits – you see mostly young faces, heavy make-ups and colourful, mainly Western clothing. Some girls move without any enthusiasm, clearly not enjoying being on the stage, while others are really into it – dancing, singing and interacting with the public. Reactions of the onlookers are also different – some have reserved and indifferent looks, others watch with eyes and mouth wide open, and others enthusiastically shout and dance on their chairs and pass money to their favourite girls. Numerous mobile phones record the whole performance to enjoy the show again and again later and share it with friends. The whole spectacle runs for hours, starts again on the next night and goes on for the whole duration of the mela.

Photos taken in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.


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