Arun Bhardwaj refuses to conform to conventions and breaks barriers everyday. A professional male belly dancer, Bhardwaj, through his dance school — Indian Tribal School — is working towards popularising the dance form and providing a platform for artists who pursue it. Here, he talks about introducing the form to LGBT community...
What are the movements, techniques and steps that you are going to teach at the workshop?
Perhaps, this would be the first time in India that someone is conducting a belly dance workshop for the rainbow community (LGBT). It will focus on a few movements like pelvic, abdominal, maya, taxim, connection and improvisation. These movements will help them with different variations and connections like making eye contact, shoulder contact, body language. There are many other movements too that I will be teaching the participants to help express themselves.
You have specifically kept the workshop for the LGBT community. Why is it so?
The Indian Tribal School is aiming to spread knowledge about this beautiful art form among these amazing people. Many transgenders are forced to beg on the streets, to dance at functions, and are mocked for it. It breaks my heart to see that. There is a lot of talent that can be nurtured not only with the trans community but within the entire LGBT community. We hope that this will create a spark by which they will recognise and honour their talent and in time nurture it.
Do you think it is a way to create acceptability and more inclusiveness for the community?
Of course it is, because dance is one form that even gods accept. Shiva and Kali, both have expressed themselves through dance. We hope to help create a little kind environment for the LGBT community to express themselves. Since the last one decade that I have been into belly dancing, I have realised that nobody takes an initiative to teach the community. This might be a small step, but here is hoping that others will follow this.
When and how did you decide to take up the art form?
Belly dancing is an integral part of life. No matter what I feel — joy, pain, sadness — the only constant thing that keeps me going is belly dancing. Belly dancing is my first love, an art form that I have loved, and it has loved me back. I decided to learn belly dancing when I was 16. When I started moving my body to a dance tune, I knew right then that dance would become my medium of expression. And, belly dancing is the best method of expression that I have found.
I can feel my body, heart and soul move to the beats. These are just a few words that help describe what I feel, about my journey with belly dancing and what it means to be India’s first male master teacher belly dancer.
As a male belly dancer, did you face any kind of prejudices in the beginning?
Yes, there were lots of road blocks along the way. I was laughed at, mocked and I was told to try and select other forms like hip hop etc. With time, I started performing and learning from various artists (national and international) and gradually people started recognising my efforts. I also got a lot of opportunities to teach belly dance at festivals as a master teacher.
Has the scene for male belly dancers changed in India?
With time, it has. When I started belly dancing, not many men were curious about it. Now, the number has increased and it feels good to see the community grow and prosper. I have my own students, who learnt under me, like Pemba Yonzon. They have also performed at a few events and have gained appreciation for it.
According to you, how important is it to be fit and have a slim body for a belly dancer?
The size and shape does not matter. What matters is how good you are at it, how passionate you are and if you are open to feedback. In my dance school, there are women who are fat, slim, aged, short, tall, and they come from different walks of life. There are certain exercises that focus on the core muscle, which as a master teacher, I focus on building to strengthen the dancer.
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The workshop will be held on April 14, between 2-4 pm at the head branch of Indian Tribal School, Model Colony. To register, write to firstname.lastname@example.org