Nine nights of colour and dance

The Indian Navratri festival that begins today will see thousands of Indians across the UAE dressed in bright colours and dancing in clubs, hotels, schools and parks.

Sharjah, September 28, 2011 - Lina Sudhir Dala (C) with her daughters Sonali (L) and Saloni (R) wearing the Cholis (blouses) and Ghaghra (skirts) that are worn only during the Indian Navratri festival or nine nights festival that began September 28 and they celebrate the festival in Sharjah City, Sharjah, September 28, 2011. (Jeff Topping/The National)
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DUBAI // Lina Dalal and her daughters have selected flowing outfits in the rich colours of maroon and yellow, embellished with intricate embroidery and mirror work, for the Navratri dance festival that begins tonight.

They are excited about heading out for the next nine nights with friends and family to enjoy an Indian tradition.

Video: Jashn-e-Awadh performing arts group rehearsal

The 45-strong troupe, made up of classical Indian dancers, singers and musicians make the final preparations before their performance at the Mall of the Emirates on February 25th and 26th.

"We celebrate the festival like they do back home," says Mrs Dalal, 52, who is among thousands of Indians in the UAE who will join in the traditional garba and dandiya dances in clubs, hotels, schools and parks. "It's great to bond with family because our children have grown up in Dubai, so it's good for them to learn about our culture through the dances."

Groups of dancers use their hands or wooden sticks decorated with ribbons and gold tassels as they twist and twirl in time to rhythmic beats.

"When my daughters were young, I took them in the pram for the dandiya, and as they grew up, they slowly picked up the steps," says Mrs Dalal, an assistant manager at a Sharjah travel agency who has lived in the UAE for 29 years.

Along with her daughters, who are 21 and 25 years old, she will accompany her husband and son to the festivities. As dusk falls, the family plans to meet 100 friends and relatives at a previously decided club or park.

The Navratrifestival takes place over nine nights. It marks the Hindu goddess Durga's victory in a nine-day battle with a demon king. It ends with the observance of Dussera, which marks the triumph of good over evil. Worshippers honour the festival by wearing colourful costumes and dancing through the night.

The festival began yesterday, but the celebrations in Dubai start today, and will end on October 7. Functions will take place at dozens of parks and clubs, including the three-day Great Indian Navratri Utsav (festival) at Zabeel Park, organised by the Country Club Hotel, starting today. The Indian pop singer Usha Uthup is among the performers who will croon to an estimated 10,000-strong audience each day.

"Our members love our events for being high on glamour, drama and entertainment, and we love to see them having fun with family and friends," says Rajeev Reddy, the chairman and managing director of the Country Club group. "Through events like this we get a chance to celebrate festivals and traditions."

Venues that will be open through the nine days of the festival include the Indian High School, which will feature programmes co-hosted by the Zee TV channel.

Over the past decade, traditional music has been replaced by thumping medleys and Bollywood remixes. The resulting fusion is called disco dandiya.

"The young like faster-paced music, and we move with the times," says Bharat Chachara, the India Club's general manager, adding that traditional music will be played for the first hour at club events today and next Thursday, October 6.

"Living away from home, it's easy to get disconnected," he says. "We make it a point, as a social institute, to celebrate all festivals so the young and old don't lose out on what they would have enjoyed in India."