Indian dance troupe in rare Sweden show

While "Slumdog Millionaire" brought Bollywood music to the movie-going masses, the Indian embassy is aiming to broaden Swedes' appreciation of the culture of the sub-continent with a programme of classical dance.

Indian dance troupe in rare Sweden show

The two dance styles Bharatanatyam and Kathak are both classical dances with different ties to Indian culture. While both have specific historical meaning for Hindus and Indian people, they are also meant to entertain the audience.

“It is both spiritual and entertainment,” Sunita Rao at the Indian Embassy told The Local, adding that it’s an important part of Indian culture.

Bharatanatyam is a dance that dates back about 2000 years, and is perhaps the most famous of the eight classical dances of India. The name incorporates words meaning Expression, Music and Rhythm, which is exactly what people should expect from the performance, Rao said.

Bharatanatyam is considered the most religiously inspired of the two, as dancers are portrayed as Hindu gods and other spiritual beings.

Kathak is also among the most well-known classical Indian dances, but as opposed to Bharatanatyam, it illustrates nomadic bards from northern India known as kathak, or storytellers.

These nomads would perform around the lands in courtyards and village squares, and convey mythological and moral tales from ancient scriptures with lively dances, accompanied by vocal and instrumental music.

The Indian embassy has worked for many years to bring the world renowned performers to Sweden, aiming to provide cultural insight to the locals and offer a slice of home for the approximately 18,000 Indian-born people living in Sweden.

“This should be very interesting for Swedes as well since it’s a very different form of dance,” Rao said. “There’s a lot of quick motion with hands and feet which one doesn’t usually see in other types of dance.”

Although there are some places that offer courses in Kathak in Sweden, Rao explains that the dance most associated with India is the sort often featured in “Bollywood” films, and that’s very different.

For this performance, eleven Indian dancers are invited to the Södra Teatern in Stockholm, among those the troupe leaders Saroja Vaidyanathan and Shovana Narayanan, both known around the globe for their respective dance styles.

After the 12 separate dance numbers, seven in Bharatanatyam style and five in Kathak, the groups will get together for what is called a jugalbandi and perform together for the grand finale.

Rao will no doubt attend the performances herself, she said, and urges others not to miss the chance to join her.

“These are world famous dancers and it’s not very often they come here.”

The Indian Classical Dances will be performed at Södra Teatern on November 3rd at 7pm. Tickets are 180 kronor ($27).

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#AdventCalendar: When spontaneous dancing was forbidden by law in Sweden

Each day of December up until Christmas Eve, The Local is sharing the story behind a surprising Swedish fact as part of our own Advent calendar.

#AdventCalendar: When spontaneous dancing was forbidden by law in Sweden
There's more to the story than you think. Photo: David Magnusson/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

If you've been throwing shapes of any nature over the festive season, spare a thought for the people of Sweden who were banned from spontaneous dancing until as recently as 2016.

We're not talking about an unwritten social code in a country whose people are known for a reserved nature; dancing in certain circumstances was banned by law for decades.

The law dates back to the 1930s and states that bars and pubs must have a permit in order for dancing to take place at the establishment. If the rule was breached, the owners of the bar risked fines or having their permits withdrawn.

Establishments were able to apply for one-off permissions for dancing events, but if spontaneous dancing broke out and no permit was in place, the owners were legally expected to break up the boogie.


Over the decades, there were dozens of campaigns from the nightlife industry, lobby groups, and people fighting for their right to party. In 2016, there were over 1,000 bars and restaurants in Stockholm, but only 100 of them had the coveted danstillstånd (dancing permit).

And in April of that year, Sweden's parliament voted to scrap the rules. The announcement was greeted with celebrations and, naturally, dancing.

But the story isn't quite over.

Although parliament voted in favour of overturning the law, the next step of a new law proposal still hasn't been taken. This means that police reports are continuing to be filed, and bar and restaurant owners still face consequences, for unlawful dancing.

Each day until Christmas Eve, The Local is looking at the story behind one surprising fact about Sweden, as agreed by our readers. Find the rest of our Advent Calendar HERE and sign up below to get an email notification when there's a new article.