Delhi-based belly dancer Meher Malik and her entourage from ‘Banjara School of Dance’ are an excited lot. Come July 26th and they will be seen participating in the dance reality show ‘Dance+’ on Star Plus.
Helmed by choreographer-director Remo D’Souza, the show allows the dancers to compete in their own dance style.
“With each episode, we aim to bring a new twist to our forte that is belly dancing,” says Meher, who introduced the concept of belly dancing in India.
Meher, who began her journey in this field 10 years back, faced a lot of opposition at that time. But today, there is a changed perception about the dance form.
“Earlier, belly dance was associated with cheap imagery, but now the people show respect towards us. In those days, the people joined our classes as their friends were doing it or they wanted to lose weight,” she says.
However, now the people, who approach the dance school, want to connect with the dance form and the women in particular wish to explore their feminine side.
Choosing a dance form as unconventional as belly dancing is not common. Ask Meher what attracted her to the dance form and she says, “For a woman’s body, belly dancing is a very empowering dance form. It doesn’t ask you to be a specific body size. It encourages women of each size to dance.”
Meher has even been offered item songs in Bollywood and Tollywood but she has been refusing them citing ‘representational’ issues.
“I have a serious problem with the setting and associations of these songs that are just aimed to appease men,” states Meher.
She clarifies that as belly dancers, they are artists first and don’t aim to appease anyone except themselves.
Meher, who choreographed actress Rani Mukherjee in the ‘Aga Bai’ song from the film Aiyyaa, says she chose that song as it dealt with a women’s fantasy and was not about titillating men in bars or clubs.
“Dancing is not anymore an art for Bollywood. Everyone is dishing out the same dish with no exquisite flavours,” she says.
She laments that even the most educated directors have stupid imagery, aimed just to sell the product, in this case a film.
Meher also cautions that belly dancers have to set the right examples.
“It is important to choose your work wisely so that you are able to send the right message across,” she says.
Meher says belly dance is a very powerful dance form and its connotation completely depends on how it is used.
“A lot of my students have started to take their own decisions. They no more seek approval of men for each and everything in their lives. That way, we are empowering our students,” she says.
Meher further says that today the people might not be taking the dance from seriously but things are bound to change 50 to 60 years down the road.
“After a few years, belly dance will be a part of the popular dance culture. Hence, sustainable growth of the dance form is important, which will only happen when it goes into the right hands,” feels Meher.
As for the future, Meher and her dancers are bracing themselves for a month-long dance exchange programme in Portugal in February next year.