Dance bar

Dance bar

The term dance bar is used in India to refer to bars in which adult entertainment in the form of dances by relatively well-covered women are performed for male patrons in exchange for cash.


Bar dancing in India, however, markedly differs from erotic dancing in the Western world and some parts of the Eastern world and even parts of India. In a way, it is more similar to bellydancing performed as entertainment. The dancers, known as bar girls, remain significantly clothed throughout the performance, showing at most some midriff, part of the back, and bare arms. Therefore, the erotic aspect of bar dancing is mostly achieved through suggestion. In Maharashtra, bar dancer attire is often ethnic Indian (sari or lehenga-choli), whereas in some other places, such as Bangalore, it may include Western garb. The bar dances are often compared to the mujras of yore, wherein women would dance to live classical Indian music

Dancer Protocol

Bar girls dance to Bollywood and Indipop numbers on a colorfully lit dance floor, in the central focus of a dance bar's seating arrangement. Most of the time, they will be reservedly swaying to the music until they find some patron whose attention they wish to attract, or are called upon by a patron. They then dance in front of the patron, making fleeting eye contact, pointing, gesturing, or generally making their targeted patron "feel special". No bodily contact between the two is allowed , and the bar dancers often stay within the confines of the dance floor. Male waiters hover over patrons and dancers who get too close to each other, both to oversee transactions between the two as well as ostensibly to prevent sex-for-money deals being made.

Monetary Rewards

The patron in turn showers his favored dancer with currency notes. He does this either by handing over nominal denominations of cash (10 or 20 rupee notes), or through an act known as "scratching", where he holds a wad of currency notes above his dancer and rubs notes off the wad down upon the dancer. In some cases, he would even garland the dancer with rupees. Many bar dancers are able to make hundreds of rupees a night in this way, thanks to generous, well-off, and possibly inebriated patrons. In one scandalous story, Indian scamster Abdul Karim Telgi spent nearly a crore of rupees (1 crore = 10,000,000) on a single dancer in one night At the end of the day, each girl's earnings are counted and split in some predetermined proportion between the dance bar and the girls. The dance bars also make money through the sale of alcohol and snacks.

Social and Economic Aspects

Such dance bars used to be present only in Mumbai but are now spreading across the country in cities. It is estimated that in Mumbai alone, there are hundreds of dance bars, although what makes it difficult to estimate the number is that many of them are not very accessible. Some of these remain open till late at night.

They are a source of revenue for the government and they employ thousands of bar girls. Some policemen and local thugs also make money off regular haftas from the dance bars

The bar girls are, in many cases, sole support their families through their earnings They often live together by renting out dwellings in housing colonies, where inexpensive associated services such as makeup shops, dress shops and the like are at hand.

Bar girls and dance bar owners have formed associations to protect their interests Most bar girls in Maharashtra are believed to be from outside the state , some even from outside the country.


Dance bars have also drawn the ire of the infamous Indian moral police in recent years, especially in the state of Maharashtra. They have been charged with morally corrupting society, exploiting men and siphoning money away from the latter's families, having connections with criminal elements , as well as being fronts for prostitution The dance bars and their supporters have countered with the demand that dances by women as performed in elite hotels, clubs, public shows, and gymkhanas, presently exempted from the government's list of targets, be tarred with the same brush Some have even pointed out the racy item numbers of Bollywood films as examples of hypocrisy on the part of the state and their other opponents.

Legal Action

On July 22 2005 a bill was adopted by the Maharashtra State Assembly banning dance bars across the state. Starting August 15 2005, the ban was implemented across Maharashtra. Bar girls were forced to turn to the Gulf , other states , waiting tables, dancing at mujras, or, in many cases, outright prostitution in order to survive. Some have even committed suicide in despair , as rehabilitation by the state has not been forthcoming The dance bars themselves had to attempt to make ends meet by hosting live singing troupes or live bands.

However, on April 12 2006, a Maharashtra state high court ruled the ban unconstitutional and gave the state eight weeks to file its case with the Supreme Court.

Further reading

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