‘I Am a Male Belly Dancer and I Am Not Gay’: Breaking Stereotypes
This Sikh male belly dancer busts stereotypes and says “ Just because I am a belly dancer it doesn’t mean I am gay.”
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Camera: Shivkumar Maurya
“Tu ladka hoke belly dancing karta hai, gay hai kya?”
“Dekh dekh, kaise chakka ki tarah latke jhatke mar raha hai.”
“Ab bhangra karna wala, belly dancing karega!”
These are some of the few snarky comments that a Sikh man from Chandigarh has to face for giving into his heart’s calling.
Sahib Singh, a 26-year-old IT professional based in Mysore has been busting stereotypes that patriarchy continues to force upon us. He is a belly dancer and has been performing for the last four years.
Growing up in Chandigarh, Sahib’s first encounter with dance was through TV where he used to watch peppy Bollywood numbers. With the advent of time and technology, YouTube became his mentor, guide and free-of-cost tutor which soon gave him the confidence to get up on stage and sway the audience with his crisp moves.
Narrating about his feelings when he took the stage for the first time, Sahib said, “A lot of things were going through my mind. I was nervous, I was anxious, and I was actually thinking about how people would react to me.”
“But whenever I perform, the audience reaction is very warm, they are always very warm.” he said.
‘What Has Sexuality Got to Do with Belly Dancing?’
But it has not been a ‘cake walk’ for Sahib to get to the point where the audience’s criticism has been overshadowed by loud applauses. Initially, when he began performing on the stage, he used to face ‘derogatory remarks’ from people.
When I started, people used to call me chakka and that actually hit my mind a lot of times. So I didn’t get this point, why they call me chakka. If I am doing belly dancing, that does not mean that I am feminine and that’s why I do it. It’s just that I like it, that’s why I do it.Sahib Singh
Another common response Sahib often has to face is comments on his sexuality. Though the comments don’t bother him anymore many people assume he is gay or bisexual only because his interests don’t seem “manly” enough.
Sahib questions back, “ If a male does it, okay yeh toh waisa hi hoga, that’s why he does it. I just believe in one thing – that I like it, that’s why I do it. Why does my sexuality have to come in it?”
Even after so much support and appreciation from the audience, Sahib wants just one thing for himself. He wants his parents to support him for who he is and what he does.
“My parents have not actually watched most of my performances, I'll say 90 percent of my performances. So I want them to support me. Yes, they do it silently, but I want them to support me now on the forefront. They should come up and say "You should do what you want to do".
‘I Am a Sikh and Turban Is My Pride’
In a society full of prejudice, anyone with an appearance or opinion that differs from what is considered ‘normal’ is put down and ridiculed. And one would generally think that his turban may act as a hindrance for him to follow his passion, but Sahib disagrees.
“I am a Sikh and I am proud of it. I am proud of my turban. Turban is my pride. And not even once has a sardar guy came to me and said, "You should not do it." They have always come to me and they always said, “Yes, you are really good at it and you should follow it.”
Bollywood has a habit of often getting this dance form all ‘wrong’– from associating it with sexuality, portraying it to be a bar dance and stereotypically choosing women to play the part.
It is an Egyptian classical dance and we love our classical dance forms, we respect them. So why shouldn’t this Egyptian classical dance form be respected? We show them as bar dancing. It is wrong.Sahib Singh said
When asked about if he would like to see actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh belly dance on Mallika Sherawat’s Mallika ‘Maiyya Maiyya’ or Katrina Kaif’s ‘Sheila ki Jawani’, Sahib said, “I seriously believe that when an actor does it in the future, they will definitely look sexy. So I will definitely support it if Ranveer Singh or Ranbir Kapoor do belly dancing!”
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