Attending a classical Indian dance performance debut?
June 10, 2014 8:37 PM   Subscribe

A coworker invited me to her daughter's rangapravesha (indian dance performance) after I saw a fancy brochure/program at her desk and remarked, "Wow, this looks amazing! It would be great to see this kind of dance performance! Let me know when she is performing!" Did I awkwardly invite myself to what is essentially a family event, like a quinceaƱera or a graduation? If you've been to a rangapravesha or had one of your own, what else should I know if I attend? Additional over-thinking questions below the fold.

I realize that my coworker is the best source for these answers, but in case I already have made it super-awkward I wanted to get some third-party understanding of what a rangapravesha is. When I searched online, a few articles came up that suggest it is like a debutante type event, and others suggest it is like a dance recital or graduation. It is being held at an arts center, which made me initially think "Oh this is a public performance" but it is actually just friends and family in attendance (i.e. the event is not listed on the arts center website for public ticketing.)

The (also very fancy!) invitation I received says that it begins at 4, and there is a dinner at 7:30 -- how tacky would it be to only attend part of the performance or not stay for dinner? Anything else you can share about this type of event -- if it is a generalizable kind of thing -- would be appreciated!
posted by NikitaNikita to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I went to a few of those as a kid (I'm Indian American). In my experience, it's not anything like a quinceaƱera or a graduation or debutante ball. For one thing, those are usually for everyone in a particular group ( like all girls who turn 15 or whatever) but for rangapravesha it's for serious students of (usually) Indian dance. It's like a senior recital type thing.

I don't think it's awkward for you to go if they invited you. Not sure about the dinner part, as I don't remember that, and if there were dinners at the ones I went to they were likely non fancy buffets, but I don't think it would be weird or tacky to leave before the dinner. You should stay for all of the performance though.

They are really, really cool though. It's one girl doing these amazing classical dances for hours, with a million costume changes. It's rad, you should go. Usually the program has lots of explanation of what's going on in English for all the second generation desi kids/adults who are there, plus the non Indians, so you should be fine.

Seriously so fun though. Have fun!
posted by sweetkid at 8:48 PM on June 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: It's more of a graduation and the artist spends months and months preparing for it. It's also very expensive to put on so the family will definitely appreciate a large audience. Friends, family, co-workers, friends of friends, etc. Doesn't matter who comes, so long as they're attentive audience members. There's usually a break midway to allow for a costume change and you can sneak out then.

IF you do decide to stick it out, maybe bring flowers or a card -- this probably depends on the family's ethnicity, but normally, at the end of the performers, the audience goes up to the stage and congratulates the dancer. Not necessary though, as they'll probably be lots of people doing the same.
posted by ohorrors at 8:54 PM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not aware of specific expectations but, given the "fancy" invitation it would seem polite and appropriate to give your co-worker advance notice if you don't intend to be able to stay for dinner.
posted by uncaken at 9:50 PM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I've been to a few and they're usually held in a big hall or auditorium like you mentioned. It's like a special graduation performance after many years of intensive training. The ones I've been to were large scale affairs with lots and lots of guests, not just inner circle family and friends. If you don't plan to stay for dinner, let the hosts know, though I'm pretty sure the dinner will be awesome and delicious!
posted by quince at 10:21 PM on June 10, 2014

Best answer: I would bet that the dinner would be a buffet, and the food will be awesome. You should stay for dinner.
posted by Joh at 11:26 PM on June 10, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I went to one of these for a colleague's daughter last year. I was planning to sneak out during one of the breaks, but ended up staying for the whole thing plus dinner because it was a fantastic performance - it's usual to have musicians accompanying the dances so it's pretty amazing.

It's similar to a graduation, but the whole community will be there, not just family. There will be a presentation of gifts after the dances - to the musicians, the guru (dance teacher) and so on. You might also be given a small gift by the family. It's not expected that you take a gift, but if you know the dancer well, a bunch of flowers would be fine.

Oh, and get a bit dressed up. These are formal celebratory occasions, the best saris will be out, and you'll feel a bit drab if you don't make an effort. I wore black pants and a black top and my most gorgeous Indian silk shawl, and felt very under-dressed.
posted by girlgenius at 4:27 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We attended one for a friend's daughter. It was entertaining (even my son, 4 at the time, really liked it and didn't wiggle TOO much). The individual dances were explained by an announcer prior to each set, so that the audience would be familiar with the history of the dance and/or the story presented by the dancer. In the recital we attended, the family provided food afterwards, and the atmosphere of friendly sharing during the meal was quite enjoyable. I wouldn't expect food to be served, but be prepared to socialize with the group if you attend. Personally, I really enjoyed watching my friend get choked up with emotion as he thanked the dance guru and others. He was so obviously proud of his daughter, and normally such a reserved and quiet guy, that it was very touching to observe.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:53 PM on June 11, 2014

Response by poster: As an update, I went and had a great time! The dancing was amazing, I really enjoyed the music (live performers!).. and, yes, I really enjoyed the food after too :)
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:34 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

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