Beauty and Grace

I love to capture people’s facial expressions with my camera. One photo I took over 10 years ago always makes me smile. The “subject” was a young woman preparing to dance in a group of other women during the Hindu festival, Diwali, (or Festival of Lights) at a large park near me.

Already several groups of younger girls had performed their skilled dances on stage. Each group dressed exactly alike in costumes and styles of a particular area of India. Many of them, as is the custom, began training for performing when they were 6 or 7 years old. Each minute move of their fingers, hands, arms, head and facial expression and their bodies were in synchronicity with each other.

Some dances tell a story, while some are movements based on dances from centuries ago. There also are dances for boys and men, young and old, as well.

Their costumes were vibrantly colored and often ornate with gold inlay materials. Their golden jewelry reflected the sun’s brightness, thereby accentuating the movements of their feet and the gestures of their hands. Each girl’s appearance made them look and feel like little princesses. Each of the three regions (South, North, and West) of India have their own particular styles of dance and clothing.

To the sides and front of the stage there were other performers of varying ages preparing for their group’s time on stage. As I turned around to look at the sideline activities there was one sight that caused me to pause.

One of the most beautiful young women was sitting on the ground, probably on a mat, with legs crossed at the ankles. She was in her early twenties. Her head held high with the look of a queen. Her relaxed hands were resting on her knees as an older woman prepared her hair.

Beautiful Diwali Dancer
Beautiful Diwali Dancer

From the seated older woman’s expression I imagined that she must be the young woman’s mother. Her face was aglow with such pride as she perfected the young woman’s hair style. First checking her efforts from different angles to be sure not a hair was out of place.

I asked the young woman if I could take her picture and she nodded and posed. She looked straight into the camera with an unwavering look of confidence, self awareness and calmness. I snapped the picture. Later I saw her and the other young ladies in her group perform.

As you can see her costume was beautiful. Regally she held her head high and her shoulders back like a queen. In spite of all the splendor of her clothing, it was her eyes and her smile that stunned me.

But those characteristics and her being a skilled dancer did not make her vain or arrogant. To me she seemed confident, kind and strong that she would pause in her preparation to allow me to take her picture. Before a performance often many performers are anxious or reviewing the steps of the dance in their heads or on their feet; afraid they might make a mistake during their time on stage.

Her confidence gave her a sense of discipline and grace, as one would have from dedication, much practice and certainly many performances. I would love to have known more about her.

But I could definitely tell that she was loved by the lady who groomed her hair. There must be some story there between the two women. Was the older lady once a dancer too? Was she unable to dance when she was young because of some disability? Maybe this young lady was her only daughter and she was so happy and proud of her qualities as a woman and as a dancer.  

If you know the younger lady please message me with her name or contact me here and I will give you my number. I live in Cary, NC. I  would love to give her a copy of this photo. I know the surroundings were not the best but I have no regrets.

Her photograph embodied so much of what I lacked at that age. Perhaps that is why I was so struck by her appearance. The confidence in her own appearance, her ability to perform the dance routine that she had likely been trained for since she was a young girl: the pride she felt in the knowledge that she was beautiful and a talented dancer.

8 thoughts on “Beauty and Grace

  1. It sounds like she was dancing a story. I love to belly dance the story of a song with my daughter, but that like you said these dancers learn from a young age and are so good at it. We perform, but dance for the joy of it and are not professional.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Think of it like this, you do gestures to symbolise each part of: Once upon a time there were three bears, daddy bear, mummy bear and baby bear… In my mind, that is how to learn a complex dance and be able to perform it well without being self conscious.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The stories should not be complex for the younger ones. But they should have lots of fun costumes and great music to dance to. I totally agree! Thank you so much for commenting. I will have to show you the one of the belly dancing costume I made from a sari and a skirt it came with.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would like to read a blog with images of that. Post the link here so I don’t miss it. Oh and have you seen Zara? She is a London based belly dancer and her mum Sandra sells costumes. They really are the loveliest of people. If you put the words Zara Dance into a youtube search you will find her. The love the way the costumes change the people (including the lady with hens) in her upload: Mohammed Ramadan Bum Bum Bellydance Challenge

          Liked by 1 person

          1. No, I have never seen Zara until I looked her up. It is delightful to see another ample figured woman dancing and enjoying it so much! Thank you for asking about the costume. The last picture of the post is me wearing the costume with a long wig. I am now growing my hair out just because I want to. LOL. Here is the post to the costume, The next one has pictures of me in my 40’s dancing for my family. .I would love to see some pictures or a video of your costume and or dancing too. Please.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Oversoil, I was only able to enjoy the dancing from the standpoint of an observer. I did remember one dance where the boys and girls.were telling a story about the fishermen had returned to a village with many fish. To me, who also loves belly dancing and has taken lessons, I prefer to do freestyle responding to the music as I feel led to. If I had a little girl I would teach her how to belly dance too just for the fun of it. Dancing with a veil has always been my favorite style..I only performed once with my instructor becasue I had to be careful with my back, especially with undulations. I was thankful to have been able to do even that and in the costume I made.


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