Meher Malik On How Belly Dance Showed Her The Way To Liberating Love
- IWB Post
- October 6, 2018
If we were meant to stay in the same place, we would have roots instead of feet.
And feet are meant to dance.
Over absolute honest, candid and open voice notes, Meher Malik, the gorgeous Banjaran who is belly dancing her way across the globe, opened up to me about her life beyond the dance that we see.
There’s almost an unmistakable pattern that I have observed with all of my dancer friends. They are all travellers too. Sometimes to a point where they depart from their original art. Why do artists travel?
As you can see, the name of my company is Banjara School of Dance. Banjara meaning gypsy! Actually, as an introduction to my own company, I have written that all artists are wanderers. And wanderer have a connotation attached to travelling because we are all searching for something. You wouldn’t be an artist if you were not searching. Constantly on a search to develop, to get better, to find what we resonate with. I get my daily inspiration from sky, the way people live, their daily routines, cultures, music from all around the world, languages from all round the world… so as an artist whether you are a singer or a dancer or a painter, one thing that will encourage you and inspire you is cultures and people and how different people can have different perspectives on the same thing. So as an artist to constantly grow, I think that kind of inspiration is extremely important.
Your transformation from a dancer to a WOMAN dancer.. embracing her sexuality and gender unabashed; with grace, poise and strength… how did that come about? And is it something one develops naturally when pursuing a form like Belly Dancing that historically has often come under the lens?
So, belly dance is originally a dance that is passed on from mother to daughter to prepare the womb to give birth. So the womb, pregnancy, and woman… The creative side of woman comes from a very sensual and sexual place. And for me there is no way to not embrace my sexuality. Yes, I have gone through my own journey with it as a girl; not knowing my body, not understanding it, not understanding my own sexuality, having phases of confusion, not appreciating my own self, having issues with my body parts. I always believed that I was a tomboy and then getting my periods was quite shocking for me in my teenage years. But I would say belly dance has played a huge role in emancipating me as a woman because as a dance form, it does not discriminate a woman’s body.
I don’t encourage little girls to learn belly dance because I think it’s a sensual art. It’s an art form that can only be appreciated and understood by a woman. When her body is changing, when she’s gotten her periods, when her breasts are growing, when her waist line is coming in… so I feel it’s a dance form that is made for a woman’s body.
Do you think as an artist there comes a point in life when you dance because this is all one has done all their life? Not the dance we do for ourselves, but the other aspects associated with being a professional dancer… the constant attention, marketing, socialising.
To be honest with you, I don’t care much about that side. My Instagram page was a result of a challenge to a friend to make her quit smoking. She didn’t but I ended up realising that Instagram had a very large part to play with getting my work across to the world.
Marketing and socialising isn’t something that I care for. Luckily, I have gone past that and now it doesn’t matter as much to me. I do work on social media in a very detached way. Dancing is going to remain even after all these people have gone and even after I have wrinkles and people don’t want me on the stage.
If you could change this… would you? And where/who would you choose to be then?
Well, I already know what I’m going to do. In another 10 years, I am progressing towards holistic healing and actually plan to move to the mountains. That’s where my life is headed. I don’t see myself doing this forever; I’m going to be honest. A true artist needs to evolve. I cannot be doing the same things that I have been doing. My dancing has changed and a lot of people don’t understand my dance anymore. But if I need to evolve I will evolve; I don’t need anybody’s permission for that.
You have been championing women’s cause for a long time now. How are your feminist ideas a part of your interactions with your family?
Art by: @timimagination The most incredible piece of art, created from 9 months of period blood. Sacred blood, sacred art work. A woman is powerful, the only reason she is oppressed is because she is feared and she is feared because of what she holds within. Our fear of tigers cage them because we fear for our own lives, a woman is no less than a goddess, no less than a beautiful beast. #art #period #woman #inspiring #goddess #powerful #beast #magic #blood #ilovemyperiod #red #menstruation #menstrualcycle #holy #sacred #feminine #female #womanpower #artist #baby #uterus #womb
2,971 Likes, 66 Comments – Meher Malik (@meherbanjaran) on Instagram: “Art by: @timimagination The most incredible piece of art, created from 9 months of period blood….”
Belly dance comes from the idea of birth giving and preparing the womb for menstruation. I am actually starting to read a book called the Red Moon which talks about understanding the different phases of our menstruation cycle. Actually, my husband and I are going to read it together. We recently bought subscription to the website OMGYES.com which is a series of documentaries on 2000 women talking about pleasure and what gives them pleasure. So both me and my husband are going to work on this project together. With my parents though, let it be about sex or periods or anything… it’s all okay. The Kamasutra coffee table book was gifted to me by my father when I was 14 years old!
You seem to have a beautiful married life. Congratulations and I wish you all the love. Who is Ozzie as a person and as a husband?
When my father asked me why I wanted to get married, I thought it’s going to be the next phase of my life that will teach me about sharing, giving and loving unconditionally and watching the other person grow. Ozzie is an extremely extremely curious human being and sees humour in everything around. Very honest and open person. Very liberated. We are both very open to accepting challenges and I think that makes our relationship really really exciting, really really adventurous. He’s the one who says yes to absolutely everything. I just love that about him.
Has marriage changed you as a person/dancer?
FUCK yes! Ever since I’ve met him, my life has not been the same. Every construct that I had created against relationships and people and things and men and… he accepts his femininity. He believes a large part of him is a woman. To find a man who embraces both sides of his yin and yang is something to learn from. It’s like wow, aisa bhi hota hai. He has broken a lot of constructs of my mind and that has really changed me.
For 28 years of my life, I’d never masturbated, and then he said, “You talk about loving yourself.. how can you, if you’ve never even touched yourself?” So he’s really opened my mind and changed every thought.
Somehow my Salman tributes are always oddly timed! Anyway here’s part 1 for all the Salman fans out there ❤️ @beingsalmankhan @tigerzindahai #dil #dildiyangallan #salmankhan #tigerzindahai #salmanfans #whatshot #inthenews #trending #bellydance #choreography #bellydancer #bollywood #katrinakaif #newvideo
9,881 Likes, 266 Comments – Meher Malik (@meherbanjaran) on Instagram: “Somehow my Salman tributes are always oddly timed! Anyway here’s part 1 for all the Salman fans out…”
With so many advertisements all around encouraging women to join dance classes for the sake of losing weight, how do you promote the culture of dancing for the sake of dancing?
I don’t have to work really hard to promote the dance. We promote it for what it is. We promote it as a tool of empowerment. I think our main USP is the empowerment and the generation of self-love and sisterhood that comes our of it by just attending the class. Women create such deep relationships through belly dance.
What is the sense of responsibility you feel towards all those watching you?
I remember this instance when I was part of this TV show called Just Dance and I wanted to do belly dance on A R Rahman’s rendition of Vande Mataram. I remember them telling me that if I dance to the song, their offices would be pelted with stones and be vandalised. But you know, I believe in my art so much that if I had to be in the next round, that was what I was going to do or they could chuck me out.
I think that is one act of my life that is never going to fade out of people’s minds. For me that is success. That is my responsibility toward the people watching me. I am not there to just gain followers.
I am interested in creating timelessness through my art. I’m interested in creating memories through my art that people can remember and say wow that was a gorgeous way to put things together.
And I have always felt this responsibility that belly dance is not to be used as an item song. I have gotten tons of offers from Bollywood to do item numbers and I haven’t because this is what I am fighting for, right? Respect for this dancing style. I have no issues with sensuality. I am all for it. It’s the objectification that’s an issue.