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Image courtesy of Aya Afaneh

A Salute to Female Power through Bollywood

The Attitude performance depicted what it means to be a woman and disputed the idea of exclusivity between femininity and equality.

Dec 8, 2018

On Nov. 8, Bollywood dancers from NYU Abu Dhabi's Attitude Dance Club, gave a performance featuring an energetic, vibrant fusion of traditional folk and contemporary Indian dance forms. Choreographed by Attitude’s President Nandini Kochar, Class of 2021, the piece was a tribute to the strength and resilience of the female spirit.
The performance fused two pieces: Ghoomar from the movie Padmaavat and Malhari from Bajirao Mastani. Both movies were produced by the critically acclaimed Bollywood filmmaker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Ghoomar — Celebrating Femininity The first song, Ghoomar, is featured in the recently released movie Padmaavat, starring Deepika Padukone. It is named after a traditional Rajasthani folk dance often historically performed by young girls stepping into womanhood, although nowadays it is more associated with femininity in general. In the movie, the song is performed by the character Padmavati, later celebrated for her sacrifice in the name of the dignity of Rajput women.
The dancers of Attitude’s Bollywood division reenacted that performative femininity, creating a space to celebrate their identity through grace and power.
Malhari — An Ode to Feminism The second song, Malhari, was released in 2015 along with the epic historical romance film Bajirao Mastani. In the movie, the song celebrates the victory of Bajirao’s army against its enemies. Solely performed by men, it represents strength and conquest.
In their performance, Attitude dancers redefined the piece from one associated with power and masculinity to one representing women’s empowerment and equality.
“The piece is powerful because it subverts the masculinity conventionally attributed to the song and makes it an inclusive song of victory,” said Shalini Corea, Class of 2021 and one of the show’s dancers.
The performance was also deeply anchored within the context of the genre and boldly challenged its conceptions of gender.
“Traditionally, Bollywood has a history of being stereotypical in their depiction of gender roles. It isn’t about us trying to be masculine, it’s about us trying to be inclusive and rejecting the idea of gender performances as a whole,” added Corea.
Hand in Hand — A Powerful Combination Put together, the pieces depicted a specific take on what it means to be a woman and disputed the idea of exclusivity between femininity and equality.
“I think that it’s really an expression of the fact that females can channel the same strength as males while retaining the empowering aspects of femininity,” said Katie Glasgow-Palmer, Class of 2021 and a regular dancer for Attitude’s Bollywood performances.
The strength of the piece was further emphasized by its expression of shared power.
“Dancing as a group is amazing because we all feel the same empowerment and strength. Displaying that, together, in front of an audience, is extremely gratifying,” concluded Glasgow-Palmer.
Attitude’s Bollywood division conveyed their message in a sold-out show. They wished to give a special thank you to Kochar, their choreographer and President, for giving them a unique platform of expression and sharing this special experience with them.
Ghita Benhayoune is a contributing writer. Email her at
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