Textual content by Sadaf Shaikh. Pictures by Debarati Sanyal. Styling by Shweta Navandar. Hair and Make-Up by Saher Ahmed, Faze Artistic Administration. Location Courtesy: The Area, Juhu, Mumbai
White vests, from Zara; cotton linen saris, each from Anavila.
On Ranjana: silver bangles, her personal.
The legal guidelines of Web Searching Behaviour dictate that every human spends a preordained period of time scouring social media for subjects that particularly curiosity them. This can be magnificence for a number of, style for others, whereas some customers veer in the direction of fitness-related content material. My Instagram kryptonite occurs to be dance. When I used to be youthful, I might eat So You Assume You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars with the identical zest that my grandmother reserved for the Okay-serials. Later, within the confines of my room, I might attempt to mimic the methods I had watched, and persuade myself that my execution was wonderful. I’d assume that I used to be pirouetting gracefully, however in actuality I used to be barely managing to not move out from the twirling.
I’m jolted out of this childhood reverie as my cab involves a screeching halt outdoors The Area, a boutique studio in Juhu which recurrently holds health and way of life courses. Aarifa Bhinderwala and Ranjana Dave, who’ve volunteered to undergo our experiment in locomotion, are engaged in dialog as they heat up collectively. The previous, a maverick pole dancer, and the latter, a educated Odissi practitioner, have agreed to swap roles for a day to determine how successfully the physique of a dancer can adapt to an unfamiliar type. I’ll seem calm on the surface, however I can really feel the dance-loving childhood model of me stirring with pleasure on the prospect of an eventful day.
Earlier than she walked into her first-class two years in the past, 29-year-old Bhinderwala hadn’t even watched a video on pole dancing, not to mention tried any strikes. Her solely brush with dance had been the stray courses she’d signed up for, by which she had tried out totally different types. Nevertheless it wasn’t till after her first pole class that she discovered her true calling. She reminisces, “My initial experience wasn’t too successful, because I had applied copious amounts of moisturiser on my body and kept slipping off. I saw the other girls conducting their spins with effortless ease, and the universe whispered into my ear that I would get there very soon.” I realise that Bhinderwala’s instinct wasn’t far off the mark, as I watch her show a sophisticated inversion with the grace of a gazelle.
Dave is impressed by her peer’s show of expertise, and may’t wait to attempt her hand — fairly actually — on the pole. The 30-year-old Odissi dancer found the traditional classical type on the age of 15, and fell in love with how her physique seemed when she carried out. She had discovered Bharatanatyam as a toddler, however her fascination for it ebbed as quickly as she stumbled upon Odissi; she was enamoured by its structural nuances, just like the complicated torso actions and undulating motions. However principally, it was the music that made her fall in love with Odissi. She claims to have a soul reference to the sound of the mardala, a percussion instrument, and the melody of the ukutas, rhythmic syllables sung in numerous mixtures, each of which accompany performances.
The stage is about, and the dancing duo, draped in similar striped saris paired with white vests, is a sight to behold. They command consideration to their particular person selves — Bhinderwala together with her lithe, sinewy physique and Dave together with her nimble, curvy body. The Odissi dancer begins her enthusiastic scholar off with some easy torso isolations, which the pole dancer mirrors flawlessly. Dave reacts to this with a childlike happiness that’s completely endearing. The Odissi dancer, who additionally freelances as a author, needed to cross many hurdles to get to the place she is in the present day. “I majored in journalism for my bachelor’s degree. It was when I began studying Odissi that I started writing about dance. Initially, it was just a way to learn more about dance in a shorter time. I started Odissi at 17, amid a sea of five-year-olds, and I had this urgent need to catch up. At first, my parents were quite alarmed when I chose to ditch an education in the sciences for journalism and then for dance, but they have made their peace with it now.”
Bhinderwala identifies with Dave’s exhilaration at being a profitable mentor, experiencing an identical pleasure when she sees her college students getting their pole methods proper. The founding father of Pole Burnt, the aptly christened pole dancing class held in the identical area we’re in proper now, explains, “I started out having no experience in either sports or dance, so meeting novices takes me back to how helpless I felt during my first session. Teaching pole is a grounding experience because I am imparting my skills to someone who doesn’t know what to expect from my class. Dancing, on the other hand, has its own kind of high; it’s meditative. If I had to put it in words, I’d say that if teaching grounds me, dancing elevates my spirit. So, I try to strike a balance between the two to align my energies.”
Glad together with her one-day-old protégé’s triumphant consequence within the first check, Dave decides to show it up a notch with a tribhanga posture, the place the physique is fragmented alongside three bends — the knee, the torso and the neck. The tough half is to deliver the shoulder and neck right into a serpentine place with out shifting the latter. It’s tedious, and Bhinderwala struggles with mastering the precept for some time, treating us to some comical moments throughout her tries. To be trustworthy, I’m floored by her perseverance. Whereas I might have been resignedly rolling on the ground after a couple of makes an attempt, Bhinderwala’s tenacity is aware of no bounds. She cajoles Dave into repeatedly demonstrating the transfer till she executes it to her satisfaction. The pièce de résistance is the bhramari — a fast-paced spin with one leg suspended within the air — which the pole dancer performs impressively after a number of trials. Says Dave, a smile plastered on her face, “I find teaching crucial to how I deepen my understanding of dance as a practice. I first taught a dance module to architecture students at a college in Mumbai, and there was a miraculous moment when I saw them suddenly begin to engage with new ideas and concepts and ask critical and reflexive questions. The desire to keep that spirit of inquiry alive fuels how I teach. Currently, I teach dance studies at a university in Delhi, and every minute I spend in class enriches my thinking immensely.”
The lights are dimmed. The saris come off. Beneath, Bhinderwala and Dave sport plain white vests with matching boy shorts. With this variation of costume, the scholar turns into the grasp. Bhinderwala is simply as enthusiastic about educating the secrets and techniques of the pole to Dave as she was about studying the nuances of Odissi. I’ve my misgivings about this a part of the session; I’ll have omitted this half earlier because of the sheer embarrassment of all of it, however I had persuaded the pole grasp to do the only of spins in tremendous slo-mo, after which tried to recreate it myself when the 2 have been altering garments. The gods seem to have seen it match to bless me with the pliability of a cow, so not solely did I fail at even performing a single spin, however true to the identify of Bhinderwala’s class, I used to be additionally left with some burn marks brought on by the friction. I questioned if this style of dance was reserved for these with higher bone malleability. She is fast to dispel my presumptions. “Look at it this way. What do you do when you sign up to train at the gym? Do you first go somewhere else to build muscle and then come to the gym to pick up weights? No, you start small at the gym itself. Similarly, there are no prerequisites for pole dancing. There’s the misconception that you already need to be strong or lean to do pole. My class comprises girls of every body type and age, some of whom have absolutely no background in any kind of physical activity. Strength, stamina, endurance, flexibility — these are all built during the class so you just have to show up and do your best.”
Dave is stretching her bones in anticipation of the subsequent couple of hours when, like me, she hopes to seek out out if the pole is a pal or a foe. I frown with scepticism on the considered the Odissi dancer contorting on a pole. I eat humble pie the very subsequent second, as Dave does a full cut up with out breaking a sweat. That settles the pliability debate, however what catches my consideration is the faraway expression on Dave’s face, as if she’s wandered off into the key areas of her thoughts. Noticing the query in my eyes, she clarifies, “I just thought of one of my favourite performances — it was in 2016 at a park in New Delhi. The duet was organised by Delhi-based theatre-maker Mallika Taneja’s initiative Lost and Found which aimed to take the arts to different neighbourhoods in the city. We performed to an audience that surrounded us on all four sides. It was marvellous to dance in such an intimate setting, with not only the seated spectators watching us but also a larger peripheral audience, including joggers who slowed down and took in the performance.”
Twin poles are prepared on the centre of the studio, and Bhinderwala reflexively takes maintain of 1. She spins round hypnotically, concluding the show with an inversion that render everybody within the studio speechless, proper from the spot boy to the hair and make-up artist. The modern, metallic equipment isn’t good friend or foe to Bhinderwala. It’s a lover; one which she grabs seductively in a really public kind of foreplay. The pole, in flip, is an accommodating companion, however comes with risks, as I can see from the bandages on her ft. Invigorated by a pep speak from her instructor, Dave tries her first spin — which requires locking one foot over the calf of the opposite leg — and instantly plummets to the bottom. A little shocked by the miscalculation, she stands up resolutely and provides it one other go, as soon as once more not assembly with a lot success. I give her an understanding smile, empathising together with her obvious incapability to attach with the pole. Dave is having none of it; the subsequent 20 minutes include fixed slips and falls. At one level, Bhinderwala even tries to stability Dave’s physique weight together with her personal palms simply in order that she will handle to cling to the pole for an extended time. The Odissi dancer’s resilience, regardless of the mounting variety of failed makes an attempt, is spectacular.
Maybe it was this similar high quality that prompted the organisers of this yr’s Serendipity Arts Pageant to have her on a panel the place she might lend her curatorial experience to a programme that features classical dance performances and new ventures by rising and established choreographers. Dave, who has struggled with the notion of ‘perfection’ prior to now, admits to having taken a harsh and unfavourable view of her physique and its talents. “You never feel good enough, and instead of focusing on the dance, you are constantly evaluating yourself and being excessively self-critical.” I’ve a sense that her physique holds her in excessive regard for ultimately steering away from any unrealistic expectations and, by advantage of this respect, bends to her will. Quickly I see Dave is spinning slowly down the pole, not with the identical effortlessness as Bhinderwala, however with the promise of a gifted newbie. Her teacher claps gleefully and rushes to hitch her on the adjoining pole and that’s once we get our shot of the day — two ladies who love dance coming collectively in good unison. However the duo’s magnum opus comes within the subsequent jiffy — Bhinderwala executes a shocking inversion, which has her hanging the wrong way up with Dave concurrently performing a cut up on the identical pole.
As we wrap up the shoot, I spot our tireless dancers exchanging numbers and notes, and am hit by a pleasant imaginative and prescient — Bhinderwala in a silk sari including a twist to some elaborate Odissi strikes, and Dave twirling sinuously round a pole. I shortly snap again to my senses earlier than my musings increase to incorporate myself within the daydream, the burn marks on my calves serving as warning. Or perhaps, come morning, they are going to be my motivation to join an intensive pole dancing class.