Identity, Rights, and Evolving Stereotypes: Bharatanatyam

My identity is an amalgamation of the culture I was born and raised in with the culture my ancestral heritage ties to, and I have created a new social reality around myself and possibly other South Asians who live in the United States to fit our circumstances in the evolving world. Throughout my life, I’ve met so many people who identify with a certain geographic group; however, they do not speak the native language. It makes me think about my own experiences with being “bilingual.” Where do I really fit in? Although I am able to speak Tamil, a language of South India, I am unable to read and write in the language. I sometimes feel ashamed that I am not as “Indian” as I should be, but I have come to terms with myself and realized that I am evolving an identity rather than completely leaving it behind. Another important part of my identity is the art of dance, and I have been able to embrace my new identity through dance.
As a society, we always tend to categorize, and we always try to stick to the norms and the ideals. Our world is evolving, so we should try to find ways to change the rigid stereotypes we have. Progress has occurred, and we have come to accept a variety of different things. Our views are very different than that of the generations before us, yet we still face xenophobia, sexism, and hatred towards the unknown. New social realities must be accepted by society, and our views of stereotypes should be broken.
Bharatanatyam dance is an age-old classical dance of India in which the dancers can reenact ancient literature and texts, demonstrate a piece of Indian history, or just tell a story with their eyes. With a very classical approach, our gurus have taught us a distinct style to carry on with us throughout our lives. At Duke University, the competitive Bharatanatyam team takes a different approach. The girls have been raised in the United States, but their cultural and ancestral ties have stayed close to their hearts. With this interconnected, unique identity that we have made for ourselves, we come together to show this through our dance. By taking uncharacteristic approaches to Bharatanatyam, the team incorporates American music and “not-so-classical” dance moves into their performances. Even though we face criticisms, we bring to the stage what we are, who we are, and what we will always be.

Blame isn’t the game that needs to be played
It may have been because of the past generations, but to this generation I give praise America was built upon diversity, yet we still face language adversities
What an atrocity it is that we still perpetuate these stereotypes
It completely affects the pathway we take and the result of our lives
“What am I?” is a better question that can be asked
Coming from multiple cultures is brings about another question – “Which one do I consider first, and which one comes last?”
Born and raised, American at heart
But ancestral ties from India, extending way back from the start
I have an “American” accent when I speak stumble upon Tamil words
And my “Indian” accent to my friends? But this is just absurd
Is this the formation of a new identity?
Even though many critics see it as some obscenity?
I embrace my new creation through the form of dance, giving a new form of westernized classical Indian dance a chance.
Looked down upon by our masters, this unique, unprecedented style is called a disaster.
But it is who we are, and they can only understand from afar.
As the world around us adapts to accommodate and fathom new views, we should modify our dance to embody our identity too.

By LostIntheArt