Gujarati presence in the coastal state of Goa, known otherwise for its hip-hop and trance music, has always been clearly visible through nine-day festivities of Navratri comprising of traditional garba and dandiya. Thanks to Goa’s very own ‘Dandiya Queen’, Hetal Gangani, who has been striving hard for the last five years to nurture and promote not just the traditional dance form, but also the history behind it in Goa.
“Due to ongoing pandemic, I was clueless and unsure about conducting my annual garba and dandiya workshop this year. I actually put across a message informing my unwillingness to conduct them,” says Hetal. Little did she know that the response to her message would actually result in infusing a new zeal and approach towards looking at her art as a therapeutic medium to bring in positivity in current situation.
“I started receiving phone calls as well as messages from several people requesting me not to call off my workshops this year. Some of them had personal encounters associated with corona virus and saw this traditional dance form as only medium to pump in positivity back into their lives,” informs Hetal.
On realising the impact of this dance form on people and their mind-set, she is now conducting online garba and dandiya workshop aptly named ‘Ghar Se Garba’ over the weekends. “I have not restricted my workshop to only participants, in fact family members as well as friends can also join in along with them. This will help me reach out to many in spreading the joy as well as helping them form their own dance circle,” explains Hetal.
“Garba is in the blood of a Gujarati and I’m no exception to this. I just love everything about this vibrant traditional folk dance and hence I spend a lot time upgrading my skills in performing it,” says Hetal. Born and brought up in Goa, she strongly feels connected to her traditional roots and lays emphasis on protecting the sanctity of garba and dandiya.
“My biggest challenge was to maintain the originality of the dance form while conducting it online. A circle in garba and dandiya has a lot of significance attached to it and getting it correctly across to the participants virtually was tough. But I’m happy I could do it without any deviation from its original sanctity”, opines Hetal. She views a circle as a complete divine cycle from bad to good and from negativity to positivity.
“One day I came across a poster on social media about a garba workshop saying ‘Learn Garba The Sexy Way This Navratri’. I was taken aback and decided to start something where I can teach the traditional way of dancing and the also highlight the true significance and tradition of this popular folk,” says Hetal, who goes on to add that she is not against any kind of fusion or alteration in the dance form, but one should always remember that true essence and charm lies in its traditional form.
“The dandiya (sticks) basically represent the weapon of Maa Durga and mostly the dandiya steps are performed in various postures of defense, which again symbolise the intense war between Maa Durga and the demon Maysasur. I do make it point to educate my students about these significant factors about the festival,” explains Hetal, who has seen modern trends like salsa garba or zumba garba emerging these days.
In the last five years since she started imparting training for this traditional dance form of garba and dandiya, there have been people of all age groups coming from all across the state to learn. “There has been a drastic change in terms of the various trending steps. We call dodhiyas and also in terms of the response from the crowd to learn garba passionately. I have people from all communities coming for my classes learning with equal zeal”, says Hetal with pride. Thanks to ‘Ghar Se Garba’, this year she has managed to reach out to people from other states too with her online workshop.
“Teaching kids definitely requires a lot of patience and it becomes a challenge because it is mostly Goans who attend the classes and they do not follow the lyrics of the traditional garba songs. But their curiosity, enthusiasm and energy always makes it for me a wonderful experience,” says Hetal.
Talking about future of this traditional dance form, she opines Goa is rich in heritage and culture and the locals are open to all kinds of traditions. That is why artistes can literally thrive in a place like Goa. Lot of youngsters are eager to learn garba, which is definitely a positive sign,” says Hetal, who admits she feels content when she sees her students participate in various Navratri competitions.