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Nightlife Dancing Ban? Eh Gov’nor! We Want to Dance in Bangalore!

The first time I saw a Bollywood war film I about died laughing.  It was fabulous and bloody and tragic for the first 30 minutes or so.  The film was a well-developed story line that was touching with well-shot war scenes.  Then all of a sudden the main character was wounded, he slumped over, looked up to the sky…and DING DA DING DA DA DA DING DING DING!!!  He started dancing and singing!   Our hero had a flashback to a happier time with the woman he loved and they were putting on one heck of a sync’d routine, dressed in lovely and colourful clothes.  My jaw was dropped and I was so surprised that the war film I rented had singing and dancing that I swear I was busting my gut laughing.  I know it’s very common place here and that Indians probably don’t think twice about it being anything but a normal – and perhaps anticipated – part of the film but I promise, in other countries the war films don’t have synchronized dancing and singing.  Hell, they don’t even have normal singing and dancing.  Except that wedding scene in the Deer Hunter but it was actually part of the plot so that’s not really the same is it?  At the time, I really didn’t know what to make of it and for me it was soooo weird.

Yet so is India.  The whole country sings and dances at festivals and weddings.  There are statues of gods and goddesses posed in complex dance positions.  And to be completely honest, Indians are the most generally talented dancers in the world, alongside some of the African nations and Latin American countries like Brazil (Lordy can they move!).  Most Indians can shake it like pros, even with zero dance training.  I’m so jealous!  But thank goodness for after parties because I’ve started learning some fun moves and can now bust out a few “Bollywood” style moves whenever I want.

So what the hell happened in Bangalore to bring on a ban on dancing?  From my point of view, the religious groups with power, who wrongly feel that they know what’s best, stopped dancing for EVEYRONE when they successfully lobbied to shut down the girly “Dance Bars” of Bangalore.

For those of you outside of India, let me explain what the girly dance bars WERE here in Bangalore (they are still legal everywhere else so they are just a distant memory for Bangalore).  Imagine any Las Vegas or Berlin strip club…yes, fabulous yet trashy!  Picture all the naked women dancing on stage for one or two songs, with men shoving cash into their g-strings (or their cute little purses if they are naked).  There are lap dancing strippers entertaining gentlemen (or in some cases, ladies!) at the tables or in the back VIP rooms, where men are rubbing their groin happily up against a strippers’ ass for the right price.

Now ERASE all that from your mind and let me tell you about Indian Dance Bars.  The women here are fully dressed in sexy yet traditional Indian outfits that consisted in a strappy, cute belly top and a long flowing skirt that hung low on the hips.  The outfits are often adorned with beads and sequence or crystals attached to them.  They also have a sheer scarf to play with as they dance.  The women never remove a single item of clothing.  From what my male friends say, they are absolutely stunning at the posh bars.  One friend explained them as “prettier than actresses” when I asked him about his experience at the Dance Bars.  Their hair and makeup and jewellery are perfect… they look charming and sexy and perhaps sultry as they dance but they never touch a man even once throughout the whole of the evening — and certainly no one touches them.  No touching is allowed.  The women don’t drink champagne or cocktails either, that isn’t done either.  Men show their appreciation for a certain lady by showering her with Rupees throughout the night.  And the women smile back to them in thanks, without even a hug or a handshake.

Wow… I’m not seeing the real danger to society here, someone help me out.  I mostly had male friends in my late 20s when I was living in San Diego.  In fact, we were all pilots (I’m just a single engine pilot but flew loads and loved every minute of it!) and these guys love strip clubs so I was dragged along at every birthday party…so I guess that when I compare Indian Dance Bars to the American or European strip clubs, the Indian Dance Bars seem like the equivalent to a junior high school dance to me, sans the Rupees of course!  But for some Indians, this is a highly immoral practice that was scandalous and inappropriate to such a level that it provoked religious groups to lobby to shut them down.

Well, because the religious fanatics in Bangalore succeeded in squashing those establishments, the dance bar owners are now retaliating to a certain extent – sadly demanding that the law be enforced even in pubs, clubs and resto-bars.  Since they paid the price, they want to make sure everyone else does too.  As I understand it, the ban on dancing was not specific to the dance bars, so all bars and clubs basically should have killed dancing.  But how can a bar or restaurant or club with a DJ spinning possibly stop people from tapping their feet, moving their bodies and swaying to the beat?  It’s about as impossible and unnatural as stopping the sun from rising.  Especially in a country like India with such a rich tradition of dance that it’s actually part of the culture.  I mean, even the bloody war films have dancing in them, haha!

It’s absolutely mind boggling to me how this law came to pass in the first place.  How in the world did the government allow the religious groups such freedom to dictate what is right and wrong for an entire society?  Was it corruption and payoffs that ensured the success of the legislature?  Or was it truly the fact that the majority of the 6 million people who live in Bangalore believe that dancing at a resto-bar or club is a sin?  Because people certainly would have known the consequences of the bill being passed as they voted for it.  All of this resulted in the end of a lot of fun and it shut down a massive revenue for business owners and a tremendous amount of money that was being paid in taxes to the city.

I for one am not a happy camper.  It’s insane that I can’t move to the beat of the music ANYWHERE in Bangalore except for at the sanctioned, approved dance floors at 5-star hotel bars.  And, I’m sorry, but there had to be money and politics behind the approved dance floor licenses, right?  Come on!!

Well, I hope that a new government is elected or stands up soon and fixes this insane, odd, unique and 100% annoying situation soon.  There is no logic to compare a “dance bar” to a restaurant that brings in a DJ for music and fun.  And anyone who believes differently really needs to TRY either an afternoon of Sunday brunch around town or a Saturday night at a swish, posh bar themselves before they continue to promote the ban of dancing under their perceived morality clause.

India is proud of its dance culture.  Families and friends all around the country dance in the streets at festivals, at weddings, at house parties… so why can’t Bangaloreans shake it to house music at a place with decent speakers and table service?

Information on dance bars:

XOXO Angela

© Angela Carson, 2011

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. talesofthetail

    like footloose! you go Ren!
    sounds like you need red boots more than ever 🙂

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Sis … OMG I thought abuot using that reference too but in the end I had a blonde moment and spaced it 🙁 As much fun as it is here, the 11:30 bar closing time and the no dancing rule sucketh!!! xo

  2. anonymous

    Whattt???? I had no idea about this !! Thank God we can dance in Kolkata

  3. Hi Angela, I was pretty upset too. I still am. But these 2 places that have permission to be open is still surprising to me. Didn;t know about that. Which pubs are these ?

    1. angela_carson

      Hey Vinay, Ice in the Taj is one and I can’t remember the name of the 2nd one … it starts with a P and if I remember right it was like Pebbles but obviously not Pebbles (since they were raided recently along with Coco Bongo, both places had managers and directors in handcuffs after the raids! It’s insane). If you figure out the 2nd one please revert back and comment okay 🙂 –angela

      1. Ahah, Ice Bar… Had to be – Lots of money there 🙂 Well P – I can think of only Polo and Phoenix – Hmmm.
        yea, the pebbles scene was bad! I guess it’s only a matter of time before payoffs happen and things are back to ‘normal’ again, but I am very p****d about the whole thing 🙂

  4. Vikram S Dwarakanath

    Hi Angela, I’m sorry i could not make it to the Brunch and Beyond event on Sunday. Will make up for it in the near future.
    About the “Dance bars’ in bangalore, you have your facts right about the outfits worn by the performers and the “no touching” rule. But you may not be aware about the fact that these dance bars only served as a front for a huge Prostitution business. The V.I.P rooms in these places catered to more than just lap dances and that was the main reason the cops shut these places down.
    While we’re on the fun and partying topic, how about digging up some facts on the topic of “Discrimination of Stags / male singles” at all the hi-profile places in bangalore, regardless of how well presented and dignified you may be.

    1. angela_carson

      Thanks for the extra information… my mates didn’t tell me about extra activities going on there. That makes more sense to me know with respect to why they were shut down. And – okay – I will write about your requested topic but….because I adore the managers and owners of Skyye and F, I will write it from the “why don’t more women go out” position and toss in some extra information about the couples/single ladies only situation (unless you are a VIP or regular then of course there is no problem). 🙂 Thanks for the good idea. Hope to catch up soon, angela

  5. D Undertoad

    Ms Carson

    I too wondered at the dancing-is-evil mindset of a government that touts itself as one upholding Indian Values and Folkways and yet bans dancing, drinkin’ and dope [in the nickel bag makes 5 back in the day sort of way and is used for alliterative purposes only]. And, as you so accurately point out, money, pelf, spoils, are at the root of things.
    It’s like this. I think.
    About ten years ago, maybe a bit longer, B’luru started to grow. That growth needed land. That land was/is owned by people with very little contact with democracy qua democracy. That is to say, their rule of their fiefdoms owed more to paternalistic feudalism that to any concept of advice and consent, and money, of course. A mindset which the religious right found and exploited because the rising land values and vote bank politics with its lip service to democracy made those fiefdoms into satrapies which could then be told how to vote by Papa Satrap who, sadly for us, and him, was well past his carousing days and needed to be in bed by ten, eleven at the latest. He saw no reason why folks should be out dancing to music with a beat he couldn’t maintain, shamelessly using their bodies to express their joy in life. After all, look what it led to in his life. A sour faced Mrs. Ruler who insists on using the Official car and its red light to go to her mother’s place and a passel of children who are wasting the opportunities he has offered them in his attempts to build a dynasty. Besides, as his RR masters keep telling him, prostitution is Evil. Never mind that he just got done pimping his third son to the highest bidder ‘cuz he needs the money to buy his daughter a husband. The point is he did all that without music and dancing and drinking, for heaven’s sake. Okay, maybe a bit of drinking and the prospective bride’s house keeper did have a glint in her eye and probably could be made part of the deal, and who is to say that he wasn’t due a jig or two. Especially given the music of the dowry check. Besides nobody saw him dancing and such. As Papa Satrap saw it, lo, these long and early closing days ago, dancing and alcohol are at the root of pleasure. And pleasure will give the common man time to think about things like rights and responsibilities and such foreign imports.
    However, there is hope. I’m thinking that Papa Satrap and his body-parts-are-sinful-crew are beginning to see the financial advantage to loosening things up.
    I think that they are beginning to see that fees extracted from the specially licensed five-stars can be exponentially increased by imposing a more equitable, uh, sin tax to the grammar of governance.
    Me? I’m an India born US bred opinionist. Shout out to Jamul, CA.
    And, I should add, not quite as confused about ground realities in India as Papa Sm___ the Rulers might like to belive.

    1. angela_carson

      hahaha…. omg you officially wrote the longest comment in the (short) history of my blog! Thanks for that. My fingers are crossed that things change soon, no dancing SUCKS! And hey, I’m from Cali…was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Reldands, moved to Newport Beach in Orange County when I was 18..and lived in San Diego for a few years as an adult 🙂 Enjoy and please keep reading –angela

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