Illustration by Justin Tran
Dancing is the global language of weddings. Whether participating in the traditional Jewish “Hora” or burning up the floor with the “Chicken Dance,” it’s an important part of the wedding reception. Not only can dancing be fun, it is also culturally significant. Many cultures participate in traditional wedding dances, each with a meaning steeped in years of history. Here are just a few of those dances.
The evening reception after a Jewish wedding is when the more well-known chair dance occurs, called the Hora, which is when the bride and groom are carried high in chairs by the guests in the middle of a boisterous dancing circle. It represents happiness and includes all of the wedding party and guests. “It’s very traditional and all encompassing,” says Russell Finer, executive director of Beth Ahabah synagogue. “It’s for all different people and a fun way to get people involved.”
The Garba and the Bhangra
Modern Indian weddings have dances based on the region in which the couple lives. The Garba is performed the night before the wedding with both families, representing unity between the two. It is joyous and rhythmic, performed by women who dance around the bride while clapping. Traditional folk dances like the Garba take place after a South Indian wedding, as it also represents compatibility of the bride and groom. Most North Indian weddings include a dance called Bhangra, where all the guests participate, and it includes raising the hands and feet to the beat of the music.
The Kalamatiano, Tsamiko and Zeibekiko
Greek wedding parties take part in traditional dances like the Kalamatiano, Tsamiko and Zeibekiko. In the Kalamatiano, the bridal party holds hands and skips in a rowdy circle. The Tsamiko is a folk dance and focuses on the dancers’ individual styles. For the Zeibekiko, a Greek liquor called ouzo is placed in the center of the dance floor as individual dancers take turns showing off their own style as they whirl around the drink. This lively dance often incorporates humor in the circular steps with added personal flair showing each dancer's creativity. It began as a dance that only men would participate in, but today women just as readily show off their own dance moves.