Indian weddings are incomplete without wedding dance performances. Sure, there are guests who don’t need a stage to go crazy with their shaadi wala dance but choreographed performances can make the day even more memorable. Everyone anticipates the newlyweds, parents, or loved ones dancing their hearts out, joyfully celebrating the union of love, and these dances always steal the show. Not to mention how much fun it is to prepare and practice your performances with your friends and family throughout those frantic wedding preparations. In order for your first dance to go off without a hitch, the music, the choreography, the venue—it all needs to be carefully considered.
To help you get started, The Desi Bride and our dance choreographer partners have come up with some great tips for you on how to plan the best Indian wedding dance performance ever!
From the couples’ first dance and the solo performances of the bride and groom to the parent’s dance, there are plenty of wedding dances which you can have at your Indian wedding. Choose the dances which are important for you beforehand for better planning and preparation.
Soni Bhatia says, “The first step is gaining a clear understanding of my clients’ vision. Certain couples want a classic, romantic first dance, while others want an upbeat one to hype up their friends & family. Based on what they are looking for, their level of dance experience, and their song selections, I design an appropriate dance routine. Then we hit the studio to dance!”
Wedding dance choreography is unlike any other dance. It's not about what your choreographer will teach you; it’s about you and your fellow performers learning what you can during the chaos of wedding planning. The choreographer will ensure that everyone stays on the same page in the programs whether the performers are seasonal dancers or complete novices. The choreographer will also help you make the dance choreography a reflection of your personality and your journey while making the program enjoyable for you and your guests.
Sneha (Sunrise Dance) says, “My priority is to ensure that the clients feel comfortable every step of the way.”
Make sure to communicate with your friends and family about any dance performances you would like to include for the sangeet and other wedding events. It’s helpful to allow adequate time for your friends and family to practice their dances, given they may be preoccupied with other wedding duties or life duties, like work or school. Let’s be honest though, while some guests may practice 2-3x before the weddings, most practice right before the wedding!
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs) suggests that family members and friends start practicing as early as 3 months. She says, “It's difficult to get family members together in one place. So 3 months is a good buffer period.”
For your first dance as newlyweds, choose a song that reflects you as well as what you enjoy as a couple. You don’t have to choose one that is trending at the time or adhere to previous customs. You may be able to discover a cover or acoustic version of a song if you don't believe it's "wedding proper”. Also, don't fall into the trap of believing it has to be slow and sentimental — your first dance should represent your personality and be about you having a good time and appreciating the occasion.
Check out these playlists which we have curated just for you according to a number of themes.
From making announcements and setting the timeline of your ceremonies to creating mashups and setting the mood, DJs play a much more important role on your big day than you might think. This is why hiring a well-reviewed expert throughout your wedding planning process is completely worth it (it’s not just about making a Spotify playlist, connecting your iPhone to some speakers, and calling it a day).
This is the one piece of advice that wedding dance choreographers cannot stress enough. In all the chaos of wedding planning, you might be tempted to skip your dance rehearsals but practicing not only helps with the nerves, it also gives you the confidence you need to truly shine on your wedding day.
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co) says, “The performance is only as good as the time spent practicing.”
If you are wearing a long wedding gown with a train or a heavy lehenga, make sure to wear comfortable wedding shoes and practice in your dress to avoid any last-minute mishaps on the actual day of your performance and ensure you don’t trip over it.
Everyone is present on your big day because they care about you and want to celebrate your special day. Don't worry about the steps at this moment; simply enjoy the performance. You are the only one who understands the choreography, so as long as you smile and enjoy yourself, you will be a success. To make the day even more fun, you can throw in a little competition between the bride and groom’s families and incorporate a dance duel!
Soni Bhatia says, “Have fun! Energy is contagious. Dancers who smile, sing along to the lyrics, and genuinely enjoy the moment will naturally rev up the crowd and make the guests just as thrilled to watch the performance.”
Shruti Patel: “Wedding choreographies are so special. I love helping clients create something unique to them for special choreos. I encourage client's to message/email me a few details and I give them a quick quote before writing up a contract and sending the initial invoice.”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): ”I offer training sessions at my home studio in Rowlett, TX, or I can also travel to the client if they're in the DFW area, and online lessons. For my online sessions, I send out an in-depth tutorial video to my clients, and set up Zoom lessons as needed.”
Soni Bhatia: “The first step is gaining a clear understanding of my clients’ vision. Certain couples want a classic, romantic first dance, while others want an upbeat one to hype up their friends & family. Based on what they are looking for, their level of dance experience, and their song selections, I design an appropriate dance routine. Then we hit the studio to dance!”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “My process begins with the informal meet and greets via zoom call. I let them walk me through their vision for the dance and what expectations they have for me. Using that, I help them finalize the music tracks and begin creating the choreography. I always tell my clients as a golden rule, to have at least one dress rehearsal so that there are no surprises on the big day. I like to keep this a collaborative process. I work with my clients patiently if there is a need to change the choreography midway or add more practice sessions.”
Ria Shah: “The process varies based on the client's needs. The process begins with a phone consultation with the client to better understand their goals and confirm a song. Then I choreograph the dance and send it to the client to make sure they are satisfied with the results and adjust accordingly. Once the choreography is finalized, a full recorded video is sent to the client and the dancers. Throughout the weeks/months leading up to the wedding, I check in with the client to see the progress with the dancers. Further services such as step-by-step breakdown and online video classes are offered based on the dancer’s needs.”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “Once we curate a package that is best suited for the client, we then start to finalize songs and availability prior to starting rehearsals. The choreography is ready to go when they begin their first session. We take the choreography at their pace and tweak any steps along the way if needed. My priority is to ensure that the clients feel comfortable every step of the way.”
Shruti Patel: “I LOVE teaching beginners! My entire virtual studio is based on teaching beginners. I remind clients that they don't need to do anything that they are uncomfortable with during a routine and to let me know if something is too hard, too weird, or uncomfortable. I also try to do warm ups with them to help them get comfortable in their own bodies. I remind them that I am not a perfect dancer. I am self-taught, I never took dance lessons and I don't have a dance degree. I dance because it makes me feel good and that's what I like to teach - how to feel good in your own body, how to find moves that make you feel good. I encourage clients to find their own style, feel the beat, and have fun with the moment. I give a lot of pep talks during my meetings with clients and a lot of reminders throughout our contract and time together.”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “My style of choreography caters to both first time performers and seasoned professionals! I am able to adapt dance moves and improvise if something isn't working for my client. My primary goal is for my clients to look their best, get lots of cute pics, and have fun while dancing!”
Soni Bhatia: “I design a simple routine for them. A first dance doesn’t need to be a huge production—there is immense beauty in simplicity. I shift my focus and invest more time in technique and styling to ensure even the newest of dancers feel confident and look polished for their performance.”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “The key here is patience and understanding. For someone who's self-conscious or hasn't danced before, I use a lot of motivating phrases and more technical direction when practicing. I also actively listen to my client when they say a step is uncomfortable or too difficult, and make adjustments as appropriate. I don't pressurize my clients to learn the choreography in a set number of sessions.”
Ria Shah: “I encourage new/self-conscious dancers to try their best and ask questions! I also work closely with new dancers to adjust the hand and footwork to a simpler format.”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “There have been many clients who, at the beginning, have vocalized that "They have two left feet" or "They don't have much experience with dance". Regardless of everyone's dance background - I truly believe that everyone CAN dance. All you need is the right mindset and once you have that, you'll surprise yourself with how much you can learn and achieve. And this applies not only to dance, but with aspects of life as well!”
Shruti Patel: “Dilbaro from the movie Raazi is one of my favorite bridal songs for a bridal solo! I love teaching Dilbaro to clients! Raataan Lambiyan is also a great one for a solo or a first dance. Group wedding songs can be tricky because it depends on what type of group is performing (family vs. friends), but here are some that I think will be a hit regardless of how old the songs are: Bole Chuddiyan, Sajna/Say Yes to the Dress, Chaka Chak, Teri Baaton Mein (Raghav), and Nachde Ne Saare.”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “TikTok and Instagram have a lot to do with trending dance numbers! You should try to select songs that everyone knows and that will hype up a crowd.”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “I think in general remixes of old Bollywood songs and songs with "hook steps" are trending significantly! For the first dance I have noticed most go for a mixed track of at least 2 songs: 1 slow and romantic, and 1 fast and fun. For group performances, I notice mixed fun and fast 2-3 tracks and hook-step songs are common.”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “I love this question! There are so many amazing songs right now, from classics to new remix hits, so it's definitely hard to narrow down to just a few. However, some of the songs I see trending for the 2022 year for groups are Bijlee Bijlee, Sajna/Say Yes to the Dress, Chaka Chak, and Industry Baby x Desi Boys Remix. For couples, I would say Mere Yaara, Raataan Lambiyan, Duniya, and Sweetheart.”
Shruti Patel: “I think it's nice when couples choose their favorite songs, favorite artists, or actors/actresses/movies, and incorporate those songs in their dances. I also think it's a good idea to pick songs that tell their love story/journey. I think it's best to choose what feels easy, doable, and fun because ultimately, that's what matters.“
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “Couples should take into account their personal styles and also the theme of their event when deciding songs/dances to perform. I try to make my couple choreography simple and easy to remember since they have so many other responsibilities for their wedding. At the end of the day, their performance is geared toward memorable photo ops and lots of cheers from the crowd!”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “The dance style should be something that both partners are comfortable doing. Everyone's coordination and dance level are different. So it's important to find that happy medium. I would suggest either going to different classes or virtual classes and testing out different dance forms together. A good covid-free go-to is youtube. Testing out the dances together is very important so that you both have an understanding of how your partner moves.”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “Couples should reflect on the favorite parts of their relationship and think to themselves, "If there was a song that perfectly described this moment or feeling, what would it be?" And there's your start!”
Shruti Patel: “This depends on a couple different factors: 1. Do you have dance/performance experience? 2. What's your learning style? 3. How much effort are you willing to put in to learn the choreo? 4. How complex is the choreography and how long? Typically I say it takes about 5-10 Zoom sessions with me, assuming that the client is practicing daily on their own. I would say for a short 1-2 minute choreo, 5-6 Zoom sessions are good as long as the client continues to practice on their own at least 15-30 minutes a day.”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “The performance is only as good as the time spent practicing. Learning a 2-3 minute dance can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. However, I recommend having at least 3 run-throughs of the performance on the day of the event.”
Soni Bhatia: “For clients & couples who have experience dancing and performing, I recommend a minimum of three 60-minute lessons. For couples who require more detailed guidance, I suggest at least five lessons. This way, I can teach the choreo at a more comfortable pace, while leaving plenty of time to review styling and technique in depth.”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “Let's average each lesson is 1 hour each. I would average a 3-minute song, 6-7 1-hour sessions and that is only to learn the choreography. Depending on the person's dance level and coordination, it may take less or more. Of course for practice time after, the more the better.”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “Typically, if a dance performance is around 3-4 minutes, I would advise scheduling 4 rehearsals.”
Shruti Patel: “I think it's important to practice until you get tired of the music. I know this can be hard, but I highly HIGHLY recommend not leaving your special performance for the last minute. It's good to start at least 4 months in advance. Weddings can be so stressful for many different reasons, some that are sometimes out of our control. It's important to have at least one thing that is constant and structured. Dance can do that for you. The first month you will pick songs, and start to create a plan of how you want the performance to look. The next month will be about creating the choreography, picking dance steps, putting it all together, The third month you will learn, remember, practice, and fix whatever does not flow. The fourth month you might be stressed, but you can at least have comfort knowing that the dance/performance is way ahead of the game, and all you have to do is show up and put on your best show.”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “My sweet spot is one month. Any earlier and you risk people forgetting or procrastinating on learning the dance. Believe it or not, I actually worked with a client 3 days before their wedding! It was really tough but they did their best and had a lot of fun with it.”
Soni Bhatia: “As early as possible. Dance lessons should never be put on the backburner. Scrambling to practice routines last minute is incredibly stressful, and clients often mention to me that they wish they had started earlier. Six months prior to the event is ideal, but again, the earlier, the better!”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “I have worked with people who started learning two weeks before the big day and were able to perform successfully. However, I would not make this a common practice. I suggest at least 3 months early. I know it's difficult to get family members together in one place especially now. So 3 months is a good buffer period.”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “I know that planning for performances isn’t always at the top of the list during wedding planning, but I would advise to start inquiring about choreography 2-3 months out. The more time there is to rehearse and become comfortable with the choreography, the better the performance!”
Shruti Patel: “Some of the latest trends I've noticed are the trends we see on Tiktok and Instagram reels, a mix of some hip-hop American song transitioning to a popular desi song. Another thing I have noticed is that most parent-child songs start off with a slow dance and then have a "wow factor" to impress the audience and keep them entertained.”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “A trend that will never get old is letting your personality shine through your performance. Whether that means a classy, slow dance or ending your first dance with a bhangra banger, staying true to who you are as a couple resonates with your audience and provides for a very memorable performance. For father-daughter and mother-son dances, it's important for the parent to also get a say in the song selection process. This is a time for parents to dedicate a song to their child and maybe convey a message to them that they normally wouldn't be able to say with words. The last mother-son and father-daughter dances I did were real tear-jerkers!”
Soni Bhatia: “Traditionally, dance performances happen at the sangeet/garba night and the reception. Recently, I’ve seen choreographed baraat performances, bridal entries, and even mehndi & haldi ceremony performances occur more frequently. Hey, why not? As they say, never miss a chance to dance!”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “One of the latest trends that I have been noticing for a couple's first dance is that they are slowly stepping away from selecting a song that is the traditional/soft ballroom style and selecting more upbeat/energetic songs that the couple really enjoys instead - which I love! Don't be afraid to try something new and to step out of the "norm" in weddings. Out of all the elements incorporated in a wedding, your wedding dance is actually one of the items you can get really creative with!”
Shruti Patel: “For groups/couples: look at each other when you're performing. Smile at each other, and feed off of each other's energy. This shows the audience how much fun you're having and keeps them entertained as well. It also helps with stage fright when you know you're in this together. Don't know the lyrics? It's okay, keep smiling and use your body to make the moves pop out. If you have a lot of dances try to break them up. The typical attention span for the audience is approximately 5 minutes. Anything longer than this should be spaced out in between speeches or other things. Try to include the audience, encourage them to clap, bring them on the dance floor, etc. Happy dancing to all the future bridal/groom parties!”
Jaqueline Joseph (Gulabi Dance Co): “Performances are what make Desi weddings so much fun! Don't be afraid to get everyone involved. A family flash mob is always a hit! If you're hesitant about hiring a choreographer don't be afraid to ask questions. We're here to help you and alleviate stress (and unnecessary drama!) with our services. It's just one more thing taken off of your infinitely large wedding-planning plate. Your friends and family will thank you for outsourcing and you will be left with a bomb performance that will live on Instagram forever.”
Soni Bhatia: “Have fun! Energy is contagious. Dancers who smile, sing along to the lyrics, and genuinely enjoy the moment will naturally rev up the crowd and make the guests just as thrilled to watch the performance.”
Molly Goel (Molly Choreographs): “Definitely do dress rehearsals because you don't want any surprises on the big day. Try not to buy new shoes for the big day. These shoes should be "broken-in" so that you move comfortably. Please refrain from making any adjustments to the song/dance or the number of dancers at the last minute; it'll be hard for the dancers to get used to the changes on time (and possibly difficult for the choreographer to accommodate on such short notice).”
Sneha (Sunrise Dance): “You want to perform for yourself and have fun along the way so you can make memories to smile back on! The choreography is there just to help guide you along the way!”
Planning a wedding dance can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. The most important thing to remember is that all of the guests at your wedding will want to have a good time, so making your wedding dance a success is just a matter of following these tips! To know more about the Indian wedding dance experts, check them out on The Desi Bride.
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Cover Photo Credit: PTaufiq Photography
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