Celebrate Pride through ‘Dragvanti – A Queer Dance Festival’

 Celebrate Pride through ‘Dragvanti – A Queer Dance Festival’

Hyderabad celebrated the Pride Month with utmost Pride- with a festival called Dragvati – a Queer Dance Festival which had dancers and other artists, all dressed in drag from the LGBTQIA+ community descend on stage and celebrate their identity through Dragvanti. I spoke with Patruni Chidananda Sastry, founder of Dragvanti about the unique festival that celebrated people’s personalities through dance, excerpts from the interview:

What made you start a drag dance festival?
I had very intimate relationship with dance, since the age of 5. I only knew the expression of dancing. Been trained in classical art forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi and inspired by the German expressions and Butoh dance. My dancing journey helped me learn many languages however in 2019, drag attracted me to a space where I could use all the learnings of movement practice and apply it as a different pedagogy. When I started drag, people rarely noticed it. Today, drag artists are not seen as an essential skin of dance fraternity cause there is a distinction between how both art form are presented and perceived, the gap was something which helped me get an idea and think as to, why can’t we bring the idea of queer dance? Why not a place where dance in its all genre and forms be celebrated and presented by queer artists which would give a new and an unexplored meaning? That is how the idea of having a queer dance festival was born.

Why the name ‘Dragvanti’?
Dragvanti is a website portal created for exclusively for drag artists in India. It was definitely inspired by Narthaki one similar for dancers across the globe. I created Dragvanti to have databases, performance listings, articles and other details about drag in entirety. I wanted to give it an Indianized name so called ‘Dragvanti’. Word ‘Vant’ in Sanskrit means masculine and ‘Vanti’ means feminine so the word Dragvanti was ideal isn’t it?

How has the response of Dragvanti been so far?
We started curating festivals since 2019, in 2020 we did Indian drag conference which was an academy discussion on drag as an art, with 10 renowned drag artists across India. We also did Hyderabad drag con and Hyderabad drag fest, we dwelled into annual Bi-Pan fest for the past two years too. Hyderabad queer dance festival is a new addition. All of our events were packed with hundreds of people wanting to catch the glimpse of drag and their art of dance. For our festivals and events, we usually cater to multiple intersectionality, hence people bring their curiosity and interest to be a part of the dance festival.

Who performed in this year’s festival and how did you choose the dancers/ performers?
The agenda is to bring professional dancers from intersectional queer community. It was always the intent to look for someone with a unique identity of a dancer. We often believe to start with local artists, as a city Hyderabad has a huge variety of potential.
We have south India’s first male belly dancer Sravan Telu, who’s craft is often acclaimed to be with authentic raqs. Queer artists Gautam aka Mystic flames are a Goan artists traveling to Hyderabad presenting three different pieces of dance such as Lavani, Kathak and musical performances. Khemaya a trans drag artists is presenting Odissi. We have Preem Leela Garu, a senior trans activity and a tribal artist bringing us tribal folk dance, Apoorva Gupta a queer women bringing bachata and I, performing a butoh /drag performance.

Now that the LGBTQIA+ have better status in India did you have any Government support?
I guess over the years’ queer people and issues were on the front line thanks to trailblazer like Padmashre Nartaki Natarajan, Manjamma Jyogti and others. Having said that still we aren’t included in mainstream art. For example: drag queens and drag artists are not included in institutional art form recognitions and also not considered as equal as other classical dancers or musicians. So it is always a constant fight, we have no government support at all. We are still in the initial phases of implementing trans welfare boards across states, we are majorly relying on local LGBTQIA+ organizations and LGBTQIA+ business owners such as queer Nilayam, of Dark Vibe Society and Queer connects who are individual contributors for changing queer rights landscape in Hyderabad. Often we received support via donations and funds collected as a part of the festival. Even for this year’s Dragvanti we had open donations from audience to come and fund the festival and ticketed the show, which was distributed across the artists. We also have a no return back with lack of funds policy to accommodate queer trans people from marginalized economic groups to be a part of the fest and provide services such as volunteering in return.

Dragvanti is first of its kind festival of dance for LGBTQIA+ community and surely they look forward to creating more such events and engagements to uplift and bring queer artists across multiple art platforms. Like we support other dance and art festivals let us all come together to support this one too.

Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacific University USA, an honorary doctorate in performing arts from the National American University, He is a World Book Record holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who
has been honored with three National Excellence awards, one National Achievement
Award and Dada Saheb Phalke award by the Government of India. He can be
contacted on [email protected]


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