Belly dance is a celebrated classical dance form that has found its space all around the world. Popularly considered as a sensual dance form, Meher Malik has paved a way for belly dance to be viewed very differently in the indian society. Today, she is a successful entrepreneur running her dance school in Delhi. She and her team have made several appearances on TV reality shows.
Who is Meher Malik
As great as it sounds, Meher was my junior in school. We were both students at Indian school Muscat and it fills me with pride when I think of this courageous and unapologetic journey that Meher has taken on. I remember Meher from school with her pixie hair and a braid at the nape of her neck. Her art has evolved with her from then to this beautiful, graceful woman that she is today.
“I came to India only because I wanted to study in NIFT. I wanted to be a fashion designer for 7 years of my life but dropped out in 3 months of being there. I hated the experience completely. It wasn’t anything I thought it would be. Dancing on the other hand was not planned at all. It was a decision of the universe to put belly dance in my hands or let’s say, belly.
I was a salsa student at Salsa India when they said they were looking for a belly dance Instructor. I had never taught before but I had been belly dancing and told them I could try. And to my disbelief, they actually liked it. I started my own class there. A year after being there I realized a school was required that just promoted bellydance like it was promoted all over the world.
There’s been no looking back ever since.”
Story of Belly Dance
Originally, belly dancing was an art form passed on from a mother to her daughter to prepare the womb to give birth — it’s a spiritual dance form, and has nothing to do with enticing men.
Roots in Rajasthan
Though no one has been able to prove it yet, there is a strong belief that belly dancing has its roots in Rajasthan. There is a big possibility that it’s true, because when they discovered evidence of belly dancing as an art form in Egypt, researchers found that those dancers had darker skin, more khol in their eyes and sported colourful clothes.
They bore a strong resemblance to Indians. Because of the Silk Route (that links Europe with China), both Egypt and India were pitstops, and hence, the connection. Some of the moves of the Rajasthani gypsies (the Kalbeliyas, the snake charming community) can be seen in belly dancing.
What makes her cool?
A fashion school dropout who embraced an egyptian dance form to form a niche in India. Today, Meher runs a belly dance school in the heart of Delhi called Banjara school of dance. She travels around the world to better her understanding of belly dance and establish herself as a solo artist.
Meher’s choreographies vary from bollywood numbers, country music or even the pink panther theme song. Her art is limited to no language or ethnicity.
As an odissi dancer I also see a lot of similarity in the use of the torso movements in both belly dancing and odissi. As her art has evolved, Meher has picked on little elements of odissi and created a new wing of belly dance. I have never believed that a particular dance form is superior or inferior to another. Every art form has its own methodology of expression. Meher’s fusion pieces blend together the softness of odissi with the boldness to bellydance to form a beautiful concoction.