A tale of twirls

A tale of twirls

As Kavya Viswanath swings like a trapeze artiste on stage, she not only embraces belly dance but also explains the history and evolution of one of this form of dance. Quick yet graceful, she is a treat to watch and proves that she is not just another belly dancer. 

Her dance group, ‘Martriya’, which comprises her, Devapriya, Sourima and two drummers, Venkat and Arun, delves into the root of the form and traces its journey so far through music, dance and drama. The troupe not only celebrates belly dance but explains the science behind it too.

Kavya’s father was in the Army and since she had to keep shifting to different cities throughout her childhood, she couldn’t focus on dance as much as she wanted to. It was during her work as an architect that she re-discovered her passion for dance and trained with the Roma people (Gypsies) in Turkey and Ghawaazees (travelling dance girls) in Egypt.

A passionate dancer since 2008, she taught at the Sanaz Dance Studio and established ‘Martriya’ to bring people closer to Middle-Eastern dance forms.

Apart from the art, she was also interested in the science of the craft and her extensive research helped her form ‘Martriya’ (which means the spirit of the night), a group that performs folk-inspired belly dance. 

A tryst with yoga, Odissi and jazz helped her understand movements better and improve her choreography. She strongly believes that history, ethnicity, social and cultural relations and political and music influences have an impact on the quality of dance. “Belly dance is a blanket term,” says Kavya. “It has gone through a series of evolution and has a very nuanced approach. I try to go back in history and separate these folk dances,” she adds. 

The troupe has performed in a number of places such as Jagriti Theatre and Opus. Travelling has helped her understand the nuances of belly dance. “There isn’t enough information on the subject. It was only in the 1800s that the Westerners started writing about belly dance. It’s also hard to figure out which of these documents is authentic. A lot of the material is also romanticised by the West so I have to analyse and find information that is objective,” she says. “I also met many women from the 70s through the internet and learnt as much as I could from them,” she adds.

Unlike earlier, the dance form is no longer considered as provocative. In fact,
Kavya says that it has been extremely well-received in the City of late.

“The belly-dancing community is small so all the dancers in the City are in touch. Every troupe has something new to offer and the dance form is growing much faster here when compared to any other city,” she says. Apart from the creative satisfaction that she gets from belly dance, Kavya also wants to create a sense of curiosity among people about the form.

‘Martriya’, her labour of love, aims to eliminate generalisation, break away from misnomers and understand the dance at a micro-level. But her true purpose is to create an awareness about the form.

“I don’t want to change the norms. I just want to get people excited and savour the spirit of the dance.”

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