If we dig into the history of certain dances, we will realise that traditionally there were some dances which were meant for women and some which were only meant for men. For centuries the rules were untouched and no one thought or even tried to ruffle the feathers which were fitted so well in the cultural cap of each dance forms.
Then came some revolutionaries, who did not believe in the stereotype, who did what they felt was right and followed what their heart said, who did not think twice before jumping into things which they felt was right for them and once such person is a dynamic young man Arun Bhardwaj, who is said to be India’s very first Tribal Fusion Male Belly Dancer.
Belly dance, also referred to as Arabic dance or as raqs sharqi, literally meaning oriental dancing is an Arabic expressive dance which originated in Egypt and that emphasizes complex movements of the torso. It has evolved to take many different forms depending on the country and region, both in costume and dance style. In India Arun has given it a very tribal feel making it more earthy and giving it a very traditional Indian touch.
Arun Bhardwaj was born in Pathankot, a district from Punjab. A land where being a male child was a privilege for sure. But when a male child chooses a profession which is mostly practiced by females the privilege can get a bit hampered. As the countries first tribal Fusion Male Belly Dancer, he started his career in belly dancing at the age of 16 years and has lots of experience in the field of belly dancing as he has learnt it professionally and is practising it for over a decade.
He learnt the skills of Belly dance from the Banjara School of dance and also did attended many workshops from international acclaimed artists. He is one of India’s leading male Belly dancer who is purely following this kind of dance style. He teaches American Tribal Style, Improvisational techniques and other styles of Belly dancing as well like Egyptian Classical, Dynamic Drum Solo’s, Tribal fusion, Fluid tribal Style & to name a few such as jazz, modern ballet, Odissi among others.
Arun has also been an active part of many festivals such as Bellywood, Jashn-e-Banjar, Neon-Hafla, Kathak Fest, India Dance Week, HIDC (Hyderabad International Dance Congress), Hip Nosis (International Belly Dance Festival), Bwitch – International Belly Dance Fusion Festival, Belly Dance Boothcamp, Bombay Fest, Bellysima Bellydance festival, Goa Tribal Fest, GIDC (Goa International Dance Congress) to name a few.
I spoke to this young artist who only follows his dream and what I heard from him was a story which was very heart touching and indeed very heart warming. So here are a few questions which Arun answered straight from his heart:
Your family was against you learning belly dance, how did you convince them?
Yes, initially, hell broke loose, my parents did not talk to me, according to them it was a cabaret form and had to be done only by women and not by men. When I was learning no one even looked at me, it was as if I was committing a major sin. My dance costume was looked down upon too as it was considered extremely erotic. But, seeing my devotion towards dance my parents started supporting me seeing that I am not only enhancing my knowledge about a particular dance form but also allowing myself to grow in society and earn my own name and fame among Indians.
You often organise belly dance festival, tell me all about it?
My first belly dance festival ‘Fusion Mafia’ was held last year where I had invited internationally celebrated belly dance artist Sara Lyn from The Unites States of America, Sara took intensive sessions in body waves, texture in movement, fusion pop, moves to improve fluidity, this festival was held in Pune. But this year I am making it bigger and better. Our next festival ‘Fusion Mafia’ season 2 will happen few months from now, it will be a four days of grand celebration of belly dance. I have invited world’s two biggest belly dance experts: David Abraham from Argentina and Igor Kischka from Brazil. There will be workshops, interactive sessions, shows and a great opportunity for every belly dance lover to experience the unadulterated belly dance. I plan to take this festival to other cities too, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore will be next and then will be Chennai and Hyderabad too. I hope things work well and I can spread the purity of belly of dance in my country.
In Bollywood Belly Dance is shown in item songs, like Kartina Kaif did in the super hit song Sheela Ki Jawani, what do you have to say about it?
Yes, in many movies, various actresses have done belly dance, but to me they are just wearing belly dance attire. I am sorry to say but, Katrina Kaif did not do pure belly dance, she only made a fairly okay attempt to do it. Belly Dance takes lots of years to master on certain techniques and steps which a person can’t learn or teach in just few days because it needs lots of practice and affection towards that particular step or move. Belly dance in Bollywood is only for entertainment let us not look at it seriously.
Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer
and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National
Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Govt
of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]