International Dance Day: The Rise Of Bollywood-Style Sangeet In Modern Weddings

International Dance Day: The Rise Of Bollywood-Style Sangeet In Modern Weddings

We shine the strobe light on wedding choreographers who galvanise modern weddings

Dinesh RahejaUpdated: Saturday, April 27, 2024, 02:58 PM IST
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Priyanka and Sunny Raheja choreographed by Simran Ramchand |

As the world celebrates Dance Day on April 29, we shine the strobe light on wedding choreographers who galvanise modern weddings by tutoring the couple and their families in staging elaborate dance performances.

“Our sangeet ceremony was something we always dreamed of,” exult happy couple Amit and Mehek Talreja who got married in March 2024. “So we engaged a wedding choreographer, Mehul Shah, to execute that dream and make it a reality. Dream performances can only happen if rehearsed, and he taught us well. Our solo dance as a couple was to the Abhishek-Aishwarya number ‘Tumhe aaj maine jo dekha’. Mehek adds, “Amit’s parents danced to ‘Aankh maare’ while my parents danced to ‘Aati kya Khandala’.”

The Talrejas are emblematic of many well-to-do couples today who want their big fat Indian marriage to include a sangeet party which plays out like a Bollywood movie. “We enjoy dancing,” says Amit. “But our families are new to dancing so it was important to have a professional who would teach everyone. Our month-long rehearsals -- meeting at night, choosing songs, cracking jokes, eating, drinking while learning our dance steps -- brought the families closer together. According to me, the most fun part of any wedding is the sangeet. And choreographed dancing is far more entertaining as a viewer and as a performer too.”

Amit dancing with his wife to a song from Kuch Na Kaho

Amit dancing with his wife to a song from Kuch Na Kaho |

The current trend for hiring wedding choreographers to galvanise modern shaadis can be directly traced to the increasingly prominent part dance plays in the festivities. Popular wedding choreographer Rick Brown explains, “The sangeet ceremony has gone from being a simple one among the ladies of the house to a grand occasion when family and friends are excited about performing before a crowd of hundreds or even a thousand.”

And dancing is no longer restricted only to the sangeet. Rick informs, “Now, people perform at the haldi, engagement, and mehndi ceremony too. Even at the reception, the bride and groom make their entrance while dancing. Dance brings in the X Factor to a wedding. So, over the last 10 years, it has become very prevalent to hire choreographers and learn from them.”

This is why wedding choreographers are booked months in advance, giving rise to a new class of professionals. Ask Brown how he started in this field and he narrates, “Dancing was a passion since my childhood in Assam. I came to Mumbai specifically because I wanted to learn jazz from Shiamak Dawar. Over the next 6 years, I also learnt contemporary dancing from the Terence Lewis Academy, Bollywood dancing from Ganesh master and hip-hop dancing at Remo sir’s classes. Thereafter, I started teaching dance at different gyms and also event choreography, which led to wedding choreography.”

Aman Narang and Priyanka choreographed by Dhanashree

Aman Narang and Priyanka choreographed by Dhanashree |

Brown makes no bones of the fact that it is his training in the Bollywood style of dancing which has benefited him the most as a wedding choreographer. “The Bollywood influence is massive,” he pronounces crisply. “People prefer retro Bollywood dancing at weddings. The ‘90s are back. They tried experimenting with pop, contemporary and even salsa but only Bollywood has survived because it’s relatively easy and also the most fun. Everybody from Gen Z to older couples enjoys performing Bollywood songs. Even my US-UK-Australia-based clients want their non-Indian friends to learn Bollywood dance.”

Well-established wedding choreographer Rajeev Khinchi corroborates the popularity of Bollywood. He says, “Whenever I do wedding choreography, people choose Bollywood songs over western dancing, because it’s part of our culture. Also, Indian outfits look beautiful. I have learnt various forms of Indian and Western dancing because I want to help clients express themselves differently but I find that though the kids like to do a bit of Western, they always end up doing Bollywood dancing.”

Khinchi choreographed a South Indian theme with Kathakali dancers

Khinchi choreographed a South Indian theme with Kathakali dancers |

Khinchi started his career as a film choreographer with Farah Khan and has been in the industry for 31 years. He now confidently guides dance novices into steps tailored to their talents. He reveals, “Sometimes, a youngster wants to dance to the signature hook step from a song which can be quite tough. I have to gauge the potential of each performer and choreograph accordingly.” Khinchi adds that people are happier when performances encompass the young and the old. “When uncle-aunties and nana-nanis perform on stage, it brings a certain magic to the moment. Finally, it's all about joy and fun so we make sure that it's synchronized well and looks good.”

Rick Brown too emphasises the need to maintain a fun atmosphere. “90 per cent of my clients do not know how to dance. It is a major struggle to try to teach them baby steps. But I am not a strict teacher. I tell them that nobody will judge because people know that they are not professional dancers. I always insist the young and old join because you are making a once-in-a-lifetime memory.”

The effort to make the occasion memorable has resulted in an ever-escalating scale of grandeur. Brown laughs, “At a recent wedding, people thought they had walked into an awards nite – the massive set, LED lighting, sound, dancers and backdrop were all next level!”

Khinchi adds, “People bring in singers, Bollywood actors, comedians or influencers and they take over the sangeet. And now the culture is all about destination weddings.”

Choreographers and their assistants are, of course, flown in for these destination weddings. Because for many now, the shaadi ka mahaul is set only once the wedding choreographer starts the dance rehearsals.

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