Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A mixed-race dancer's perspective

In the wake of the recent US presidential election, I’m going to do something a little different on here. While not directly dance related, this post is from the perspective of a mixed-race millennial in the arts.

I hope you appreciate my honesty.

After Brexit I started thinking more about identity as someone of dual heritage. Where do we fit in now that the cracks in our complex social/political climate have begun to widen? The idea of belonging to a singular place or culture can be confusing. Speaking to other millennials of dual heritage, the feeling is shared. There is a push and pull relationship between the different cultures, religions and communities that make up our identity. This can either be enormously exciting or frustratingly painful.

As a dancer, I found my Indian heritage a blessing and a misfortune. I struggled to explain my decision to dance, especially to Indian relatives and friends. I rarely met other dancers from similar cultures. Even when I trained at Roehampton, I was surprised at how few were from diverse backgrounds. But most artists welcomed my mixed heritage- there is always room for more diversity in the arts.

My father was born in Kenya to a modest, working class Gujarati family. After moving back to India, the family immigrated to the UK in the 1970s. My mother grew up in Kent- again she grew up modestly as my father did. Both my parents climbed their respective social ladders, met one another, and then yours truly (dance writing expert connoisseur) came along in the 90s. My sister and I were brought up with British values. We were taught tolerance- to be understanding of even the most reactionary attitudes.

Circa 1999, before everything got "real" for my sister and I

So, to me the aftermath of Brexit and the derogatory anti-immigration attitudes that seemed to spill out following the referendum felt enormously regressive. I began to hear stories of my British mixed-race friends being told to go home. We left the EU, so get out.

As Trump's success opens the ruptures in the US, and the gaps in the UK widen, many wonder now where is home? Trump and Brexit was a victory for paranoia and fear, triggered by the failure of capitalist economics. There is huge uncertainty, especially among my generation.

But questioning our identity and our sense of belonging delivers exactly what Trump and Brexiters want. Trump's vision of America, like Farage's vision of Britain, is nothing more than political hype. A sordid fantasy of something completely unattainable.

Luckily for me, being absorbed in the London arts scene, I am surrounded by people and projects, which find new ways of overcoming the events of the past five months. There is a sense of solidarity amongst other young artists in London. So, this is home. The place between the comfort of Kent and the homeliness of Gujarat. It's the strange intangible place where the two cultures overlap and intermesh. I found that place in Britain.

Maya Pindar

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