For the very first time in India, a dance festival was organized with the vision to include the LGBTQIA+ community into the mainstream. Hyderabad Dance festival presented by HMDA which was happening for 9 days and concluded on 11th April has been a rare example to make queer and trans people to be included within each aspect of the festival.
It is one of the Indian dance festivals which has a trans woman as the board of advisor for the festival. Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, a trans activist and an RTI petitioner has been in the advisory position to ensure the festival is inclusive from start to end. The festival was envisioned by the Udayam foundation, which includes Harsha Maheswari (city-based dancer and influencer), Vaibhav Modi (Inclusion catalyst) and Mohit Shridhar( Kathak exponent from Jaipur Gharana).
Vaibhav Modi, who is a part of the Hyderabad queer community and has been working to bring queer inclusion in events, spaces, government sectors and party culture says ”its high time to make each space queer includes and we from the start of our event enure to make this message loud and clear”. The event has been supported by Hyderabad based lgbtqia+ organization Mobbera foundation. One of the days hosted a free dance workshop for trans and queer people facilitated by Ryan Martyr and Mohit Shridhar. Sandy from Mobbera quoted that “opportunities like these to learn an art form must be given more often to the queer community as majorly we are the most marginalized due to our identities. Learning like these would help us reach our complete potential ”.
The event also dedicated A evening to bring in fresh and unique queer talent by opening up the space for queer arts. The performance showcases on this day include a dance presentation by trans women Priya, a Kuchipudi presentation by Rajashekhar and a drag performance by Cologne. The event also has a Unique showcase of Drag Dance drama called “Mohini Bhasmasure” presented by Hyderabadi drag artist and dancer Patruni Sastry with Sajiv Pasala and Sourabh Basava.
Vyjayanti who is the board of advisor shared her views as a part of the panel discussion that “Dancers need to question a lot about their roots of dance, what they represent and how they can come down from close to ground reality and ensure create more inclusive art ”. Sravan Telu, Hyderabad belly dancer and queer activist who was also a part of a different panel discussion also said “this is a high time to break the stereotypes that men shouldn’t dance. Now we need to focus more on bringing all sexual identities and genders to the umbrella of dance and see how they transform each other.” The festival also included a flow movement workshop by Xen and Flux who are a part of the community.
The festival served as a remarkable space for the Hyderabad Drag community which was working in parts due to stigma and phobia about drag. the festival became a bridge to bring drag out of only queer-centric events to a wider space where allyship for drag is encouraged and accredited. Cypher hours vol 10 was one such space where drag could flourish in mainstream art. This cypher for the very first time had a wonderful drag performance by Patruni Sastry.
Harsha Maheswari who was curator for Cypher said “Cyphers are safe spaces where a dancer can share their mind, these are communities where people from different walks of life come and use their art to talk about their situations, this volume was indeed special where we had Drag which was both a visual retreat and marks our idea of inclusion to its best ”. Patruni Sastry said “it was really hard to find spaces to do drag initially, thought drag came a long way in Hyderabad, but still time and again we had to put in the entire story of explanation to venues while performing at it. However, what the Hyderabad dance festival did was it broke the sacked of exclusivity and ensured drag is treated equally as any other dance form such as HIP HOP, Jazz or Belly. ”
Even the people who backed up the event as sponsors and partners had inclusivity to its core. Queer run business for the very first time saw an equal platform to be with other heteronomitive businesses to support the festival. Hyderabad based queer café People Choice has played a significant role in sponsoring refreshments for all the 9 days of the festival and Hyderabad’s first queer-friendly Drive-in The Trunk Road also supported the cause by being the water sponsorer for the event.
Surya the owner of The trunk road said “ A queer business is as equal as that of others, by the end of it, a business is a business and being queer-friendly only helps in making your business more prosperous and meaningful than the other. Now the city has been seeing a lot of queer-friendly outlets, but do they allow a trans person to step into their premises that are a true question. Hence its high time for Queer business like us are needed to claim our own space and collaboration such as with Hyderabad dance festival would only ensure that our intent is heard loud and clear ” . Hephzibah also added that “each space has to be queer-inclusive and that is the message we bring in by collaborating with this festival”.
pictures by Ruth (Instagram - Renegade Magic)