If you have been following the Winter Olympics than you probably know that tonight starts the ice dancing competition. Competing will be UMich grads, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have a “unique Indian-themed original dance” that may or may not be performed at the competitions.
“It’s very cool,” Davis said. “Charlie and I have always been excited about being different and embracing what we could bring to the sport. It’s really exciting to expand the fan base, and expand the fan base to parts of the world that haven’t really experienced it before.” [ap]
Alright, okay. I’ll take that. Respectably not as orientalist as it could have been said. But why did they choose Bollywood?
[C]horeographer Marina Zoueva wanted something that would really make Davis and White stand out. When she spotted an Hermes scarf with brilliant colors and Indian dancers last spring, she knew she’d found the answer. [ap]
A Hermes scarf?!?
They called Anuja Rajendra, who combines Bollywood music and dance with exercise at her BollyFit studio in Ann Arbor, Mich. Rajendra, who once performed professionally, not only showed them how to move their arms and bodies in true Indian dance style, she suggested music and taught them about Indian culture….[O]nce Zoueva had finished choreographing the OD, which uses music from the 2002 Bollywood hit “Devdas,” Rajendra went to the rink to make sure authentic Indian dance could translate onto the ice. [ap]
Ok…so I’m a little less reluctant, knowing that it’s legit…I guess. They went to a desi dance instructor. From Ann Arbor, no less.
Like most winter sports, skating isn’t very big in India. But people there were impressed — and proud — that American skaters were showcasing their culture…”It makes me feel good that something Indian is being shown,” said Dr. Shekar Pushpala, a doctor in Indianapolis who was sent the video by a friend in India. [ap]
Gah. Back to square one.
On one had the winter Olympics are limited in Desi representation – there were only three people representing the Indian team. And it’s not like there are Desi ice dancing competitors that could have done the Bollywood dance to make it “authentic”. We have seen bhangra and other forms of Indian dance make an appearance in most American based dance competitions (America’s Best Dance Crew comes to mind). But on the other hand, is this a case of the glorification of the tokenization and orientalization of what it means to be Desi? Is this cultural appropriation something the be revered or something to be admonished?
Personally, I kinda like it. It is a dance style. And since Davis and White are representing Americans at the international Olympics, I feel like the American-Desi experience is symbolically represented through this number. To me, it’s my kind of hyphenated American. It’s how I want America to be represented. Bollywood dance is turning as American as the apple pie. Or is it?