The theme of International Women's Day (IWD) 2022 is 'Break the Bias'. Simply accepting that bias exists isn't enough. Action is needed to break the stereotype and discriminations and build a harmonious, inclusive world where differences are celebrated.
On that note, iGlobal catches up with the UK-based highly-acclaimed Kuchipudi dancer-choreographer Arunima Kumar who has a series of events planned throughout the month – being celebrated as Women’s History Month.
When Arunima came to the UK, the country didn't know about Kuchipudi. She has made it her life's goal to promote this Indian Classical dance form on the world stage and spread love and compassion in the community.
Today her institute is one of the largest in the UK, and she teaches across five centres in the UK and in Brazil, Poland, India, US and Italy.
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"International Women's Day is a great way to recognise what wonderful beings we are, and to celebrate women. Just like we celebrate our birthdays to landmark that we are so wonderful. It's a great day to recognise that and come together as a force to do better in the future, for ourselves and for each other and the world." she said.
Arunima feels every woman ought to get up and engage with any form of art.
"Because I think women by nature are artistic. We decorate homes; we cook; we look after children. We create children! So, there is art and creativity innate within us. I think as women, we should just encourage ourselves to engage in whatever form of art and spread that joy," Arunima said.
Indian classical dance forms involve rigorous training and discipline, which empowers women with unparalleled life skills, thinks Arunima.
"That's how you see dancers who can carry on dancing till they are 85 or 90 years old. They have that physical and mental strength, self-confidence and strong memory. It gives you the power of resilience that you can survive difficult situations, and I think that's what we all need right now.
It also humbles you. Even if you're a famous and experienced dancer, you'll still have to continue your Riyaz. And that sadhana or that sacrifice teaches you lessons for life. That is why Indian classical dance is so deep, and that is why our ancestors had created it," she said.
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Everybody can Dance
"All of us can dance. Even a little leaf on a plant dances when the wind blows."
Arunima works in inclusive dance, which involves anybody who wants to dance to get up and dance.
Arunima has worked with women in Tihar jail, Asia's largest prison.
"I remember the first time I went in with my musicians, and we were working with a group of women inmates, I reallised that we have so many blind perceptions in the society. We think that those people have committed some grave mistakes in life, but you see, they are also human beings. They might have been in a difficult situation, and they didn't have a way out. It's time to open up and open our eyes and see what's around us.
I worked with them, and they were so beautiful and so open. The piece we created was showcased at the Habitat Centre. We were surrounded by policemen all around. They were dancing, and we released pigeons into the air. Such beautiful memories and such beautiful experiences I've had as a dancer," Arunima reflects.
Going beyond the stage, Arunima aims to spread joy and love through art to everybody. She works extensively with dancers with special needs, who are differently-abled.
"A project called Column by Jerome Bel, a French choreographer at the Sadler's Wells, had once changed my perception of art entirely.
" I saw a dancer dance on a wheelchair and making rotations or rolling over things - things that I couldn't possibly do. It really broke my perceptions of dancers. That's why I feel anyone can do it. Anyone can dance, anyone can do anything," she recalls.
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"Dancing is like going to a temple"
Dance means everything for Arunima. It was her one true friend when she had migrated to the UK. She recalls, during Covid, Indian classical dance has been her guide and support system. Dancing, to her, is a spiritual connection with divinity, like going to a temple.
"Indian dance has a very divine kind of effect on you, and it's like going to a temple or church. You can't describe that feeling but what you get into that space - that inner peace that you get, I think that's what dance is to me. And because I have experienced it, I am now so passionate about sharing it."