This is a partial transcription of a video interview with Urmi Jadhav and Madhuri Sarode of the Dancing Queens. A full version of this video will be screened along with two others at the “Dancing Queens: A Celebration of India’s Transgender Communities” performance on November 18 hosted and produced by the Godrej India Culture Lab. The event, which is held in conjunction with Transgender Awareness Week, will mark the Dancing Queens’s first ever performance at a major company. The purpose of this event will be to build a dialogue between the corporate, non-profit, and creative industry sectors to highlight the ways we can create real, tangible change for members of the transgender community following the Indian Supreme Court ruling to grant legal recognition to the Third Gender community in April 2014.
This interview with Urmi Jadhav and Madhuri Sarode reveals how dance is an important tool for personal growth and advocacy.
ABOUT DANCING QUEENS
The Dancing Queens is a transgender-led dance troupe, led by Abhina Aher, Urmi Jadhav and Madhuri Sarode. Founded initially in 2009 as part of Queer Azaadi Mumbai, the Dancing Queens uses dance as a forum to teach others about the hopes and dreams of India’s gender and sexuality minorities. Through sensitive choreography, the Dancing Queens embodies, promotes, and fights for the rights of everyone to be who they want to be and love who they want to love.
ABOUT GODREJ INDIA CULTURE LAB
The Godrej India Culture Lab was launched in January 2011 to create an alternative intellectual hub in Mumbai that would serve as a catalyst for conversations about contemporary India by brokering interactions between the creative industries, the corporate world and the not-for-profit sector. As part of its regular events, the Lab has been has been providing a platform for conversations around issues of sexuality. The event keeps with this year’s theme at the Lab – gender and sexuality. Over the past four years, the Lab has hosted several LGBT themed events, the most recent being a panel discussion and film screenings on LGBT inclusion – both within and outside the workplace. Please visit http://www.indiaculturelab.org to know more about these, and other Lab initiatives.
Q: Can you introduce yourself?
A. Urmi: Hi, my name is Urmi Jadhav and I’m from Mumbai proper. I belong to the transgender-hijra community. Sorry, but I won’t tell you my age.
Madhuri: Hello, my name is Madhuri, Madhuri Sarode. Actually, my name is directly related to my dance. I’m a big fan of Madhuri Dixit.
Q: What inspired your passion for dance?
A. Urmi: During my childhood, I always imagined myself as a heroine dancing in film numbers, that I was dancing in their shoes.
Madhuri: Everyone used to ask me what my name was. So, I used to answer to them with the name that my parent’s had given me. But they didn’t buy it. They would ask me what my Transgender name was. I was not able to answer them at first. It wasn’t until i was dancing on stage that my audiences gave me the name Madhuri.
Urmi: The first dancer or actress that I was the most inspired by was Sridevi. After her was Madhuri. She was such a diva.
Madhuri: I still remember when I used to dance in my childhood, my parents had always asked me why I was dancing to female songs. I always liked dancing this way, but I had never tried being on stage in female dress.
Q: Tell us about your dancing journey.
A. Urmi: I never learned how to dance formally, never received proper training nor took any classes. I learned how to dance from my guru, Abhina, as well as my colleague, Madhuri.
Madhuri: When I was a child, I used to dance Kathak with guru Girish Pardesi. I used to dance in a number of shows, but as a boy. Whenever I saw women dancing on stage, I always wanted to be like them.
Urmi: When I started dancing, I used to dance in the chorus. People had this opinion that I was not made for the stage, and that I looked different from the rest. When I danced on the stage, it looked empty. But, these criticisms only motivated me.
Madhuri: We used to attend a number of Ramanand Sagar’s TV productions, like Alif Laila and other shows. One time, a female dancer was missing from the set, so the director dragged me into the production, dressed me as a woman, and made me dance for the shoot. I was ready for this moment. I really wanted to do it. So, I did it, and when we watched the episode at home, my parents didn’t recognize that it was me dancing. This gave me the assurance that I could do this.
Q: What are your aspirations for the Dancing Queens group?
A. Urmi: Under the Dancing Queen banner, I have variety of roles aside from being a dancer. But, I have always focused on my performance so that people remember it.
Madhuri: I feel so happy that Dancing Queens has reached this level. I never thought in a million years that we could be performing at Godrej, in Kashish Film festival and the Hijra Habba in Delhi. People are even coming to ask us to perform. I want to tell the new generation that we need new Transgenders. We need new faces in the group, because there is still a lot of work to do. I’d like to request that all Transgender dancers come forth so that we can give them a spot on the stage.
Q: How do you see a dancer and hijra together? What is dance for you?
Urmi: It has been said in our community that becoming a hijra is not easy. If someone wants to become a hijra, she needs to have a “hij.” Similarly, dancers will usually say that a good dancer is not the one who dances well, per se, but that have a passion in their heart, mind, blood, only then can she become a good dancer.
Madhuri: When I dance on stage, I forget everything. When I’m sick, having some personal problems, or even some family problems, I forget it all on the stage. Dance is everything to me. Maybe because of dance, Madhuri exists today. Now you can see me in the Dancing Queens. If dance wasn’t there for me, maybe I would have been begging at traffic signals, doing sex work or badhais in the slums. My dance would have been limited to that. But, thank God i have teachers like Abhina. She is a great thinker, and has been a huge contributor to my life as it is today. Today I’m a lead dancer in the Dancing Queens, and people have accepted me as one of them.
Q: Tell us what do you think about the future of the Dancing Queens?
Urmi: It’s just like when a child grows into an adult, he initially drinks milk and then gradually eats roti and rice. This is just like our audiences. They expect more from us each time. They expect us to innovate. They expect new dramas each time. They want new dances. They have a lot of expectations of us. Each time the Dancing Queens performs, the audience expects something new each time. We want to dance what we want, but it doesn’t work like that. When we are performing, we have to take care of our audiences too. But without an audience, there would be no dance, and no Dancing Queens.
We want to perform throughout India, and with high hopes and hard work, we will soon be able to perform internationally.