Belly dance explores poetry

Debapriya Das

Trained in Bharathnatyam, Debapriya Das was introduced to belly dancing in 2013. There’s been no looking back since then. With her dance school Nrityakosh, she hopes to change the public perception around belly dancing. 

“Belly dancing is one of the oldest forms of dance with a rich history. It has not just survived but thrived through centuries of change,” she says. 

“It has traditionally been seen as a form of entertainment for men, something made for male gaze,” she adds. “What we do is use the same form to tell stories of strong women.” 

There has been a hue and cry about the costumes used in belly dancing but Debapriya says that the dance is still very popular amongst women. “The media has also had its part in creating a certain narrative around belly dancing, but the women who do it, including me, feel more confident through it.” 

Although belly dancing had undergone a makeover with women taking it up as an empowering activity, it has, to a certain extent, remained a form of entertainment that catered to chauvinistic voyeurism.

Debapriya is taking stories of empowered women from tradition that have been performed in the more modest forms like Bharathnatyam and adapting it to belly dancing — making it less about objectification of women and about the story it tells. Her school has performed stories from the Ramayana using belly dance. “We chose five strong women from the text and conveyed their lives through our performances.”  

Her next venture is a production on the tale of influential Romani poet Papusza. The performance will take place ADA Ranga Mandira on November 9. More details and tickets are available on Bookmyshow.

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