World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Sahiyar Dance Troupe

DANCE ORIGIN: Gujarat, Western India
GENRE: Folkloric
First appearance in SF EDF: 2014

Sahiyar was formed in 1994 in the Bay Area by Heena Desai, who moved to the US in 1980 at age 22 and began to share her knowledge of Gujarati folk dances and culture; and her daughter, Reena Desai Shah, who began teaching with her in 1997. As a passionate non-profit dance group, Sahiyar spreads awareness of Gujarati folk dance culture in the US. They have received prestigious awards in the Gujarati community from the Federation of Gujarati Associations of North America and the Charitable Care Foundation for their excellence, and also, locally, performed through the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, India Cultural Association, Jain Association of North America, Cupertino Chamber of Commerce, and the India Community Center.



DANCE ORIGIN: Gujarat, Western India
TITLE: Krishna Leela Devotional Folk Medley
GENRE: Folkloric
DANCERS: Vaishali Amin, Anvi Damani, Chandni Desai, Krina Desai, Mahi Gandhi, Nishi Juthani, Veerali Juthani, Hiral Kotecha, Rayna Mehta, Rishita Mehta, Tanisha Mehta, Bijal Mugatwala, Kinjal Mugatwala, Shalika Oza, Binita Pandya, Isha Pandya, Anjalee Patel, Priyanna Patel, Rutaa Patel, Sajni Patel, Shagun Patel, Shikha Patel, Kinnari Shah, Neha Shah, Rajee Shah, Sana Shah, Ritu Thakker, Mira Thekdi, Kaajal Zaveri

Krishna Leela Devotional Folk Medley is a world premiere suite of devotional song and dance from India’s western state of Gujarat. The piece honors the Hindu Lord Krishna as a mischievous but lovable child who adored song and dance.

In Gujarat, songs and dances enliven daily chores and activities. Sahiyar’s thirty dancers expertly demonstrate the quick and happy energy of the style with Persian-dervish whirls and song-like prayers called dhoons. Their dances honor Krishna and also village life, as they tell beloved stories of Krishna sifting grains, eating butter and fresh roti breads; Krishna playing the game of raas; Krishna joyfully playing flute for the young dancing village women—the gopis.

The set begins with the singing of a traditional dhoon with rapid devotional lyrics. Then dancers with tambourines praise Radha’s love for Lord Krishna and praise the sweet sounds of his flute awakening gopis in the morning. Next, dancers with steel pots fetch water and remember a story about Krishna—the times he slyly teased the gopis, promising to spill their water if they wouldn’t dance with him. In the last two pieces, dancers sift grain to make bread for Krishna, and then play a game of raas with wooden dandia sticks, inviting Lord Krishna to play. The piece ends with a high-energy dhoon and final invocation.

The costumes are traditional—as seen in Gujarat, India today—with flared cotton ghaghras skirts, cropped choli blouses, and draped dupatta headscarfs. Each costume is handmade, including all the embroidery, decoration, and stitching. Sahiyar employs seamstresses from an NGO in the Gandhi Ashram in Gujarat, one that empowers women in slum communities to learn a trade and earn independent income in safety. Dancers’ silver costume jewelry includes long and short necklaces, earrings, hand and foot cuffs, and tikka adornments on the head.

Back to top