“Free spirited, fiery and arisquebelly dance fusion artist” is how I like to describe myself. I had little to complain about when I landed myself in a well paying corporate job. Thoroughly stimulating and fulfilling, I was in love with my work which took me to varied locales within and outside India. As a busy corporate exec though I missed freedom, connecting with myself and when the feeling gnawed at me, I decided to pause and take a sabbatical. I discovered my gypsy feet then, backpacking into unchartered territories of the world, exploring new places and cultures and in the process unearthing the new me”.
I dived into dance, flirting with different forms. Latino forms were my favourite. Salsa and tango but these are dependent on ‘a man leading you’. This didn’t sit well with who I had begun to be. Bellydance- I fell in love with instantly when I saw a Spanish friend perform and there was no turning back. This dance form wraps around a woman’s body so naturally. Fitting, suiting and gracing any woman’s body – whatever her age, shape or size.
The childhood passion of dancing which was lost in the routine mainstream life, stormed back with vigour. “My life had transformed and I never felt the need to go back to a regular mundane corporate life! I reclaimed my life and made dancing my passion and purpose of life. I trained in classical belly dance in India and abroad while also cross-training in Ballet, Odissi, Kathak, Berlesque, Tango and so on. That has served as a resource for bellydance fusions”
“The Nirbhaya case disturbed me deeply. My protest at India Gate was quietened with a raining down of lathis, tear gas and water canons. I felt defeated though I yearned to out-win them in their agenda of silencing me”
“When I conceptualised the International Bellydance Fusion Festival, I had to simply weave in my agenda of finding my voice and this time via a collective voice of bellydancers. We are a vulnerable set given the tainted impression this form suffers from. Simply wearing a two piece costume should not equate us to loose, immoral women”
The three day festival covered varied aspects which bore the pro-feminist theme. The Belly Shakti campaign drove the point home that intelligent, educated women are drawn to bellydance. Through this form, they feel empowered by celebrating their womanhood in its fullest, most potent form.A bellydance flash mob dedicated to the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign held at the Carter Road promenade, was the first of its kind held in the world.
The festival was unique since it promoted bellydance fusion – a new trend in bellydance via 21 different workshops and a Gala Showcase which saw 15 Indian and international artist enthralling the audiences with their performance. The festival concluded with a Hafla Night, an Arabic concept allowing women an informal, safe and fun environ to conduct a woman only (dance) party. Budding and upcoming artists showcased their performance at the Hafla Night which was also kept open to men (by invitation).
Although belly dance is a very feminine and sensuous dance form it contains some degree of masculine energy seen in the strong accents, moves and shimmies. The newer forms of bellydance such as Tribal Fusion emphasise the more yang side of the dance exploring other aspects not related to the concept of femininity by default − such as dissent, darkness, anger, aggression, and independence.
The good side of this dance is that it can be enjoyed even as one ages, hence it is common to see dancers who are 60 years and above. Even if they are unable to perform on a stage but they can still enjoy the experience and live every moment while they dance their way in to a happy and healthy living.
“I am extremely satisfied with the outcome of the festival. I wondered if my intention would spark off a light in others. Sure it did. The fire in the collective bellies seems to have grown. This is only the beginning; we have a long way to go. I feel blessed to live out of the motto – Stay hungry, stay foolish!”
Meet Leena Viie!
Leena was born and brought up in Mumbai!
Belly Dance festivals have been conducted in Delhi and Bangalore by Indian belly dance artist who belong to those cities. For Mumbai, this was the first of its kind ever attempted by anyone. So, Leena wanted to be the first one from Mumbai to do it. She is toying with the idea of making it an annual event that is only if she manages to muster the courage to put up with the licencing and permission headache next year!!
Post Contributor OCOW Diarist – Neeta Chhatwani - I am a passionate writer who loves to play with words. I want to weave everyone into the boundless world of my imagination and I have figured out that the best way to achieve this desire is by dressing up my thoughts into an intricate network of words. Besides writing, I love to enlighten myself with knowledge in any form, experiment with food (quiet literally) and look my best. I enjoy intelligent conversations about anything and everything under the sky. I stay miles away from fake and hollow people. Our very own Queen’s Necklace at Marine Drive is my favourite hangout spot to breathe-in every essence of this magical city… My City My Mumbai!