Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student…
Hinduism has been misrepresented within western society for many years, mingling religion with the flair of Bollywood for the uninformed. The latest in a long list of problematic forms of representation and appropriation of Indian culture is a performance by, Italian actor, journalist, television and radio presenter Costantino della Gherardesca and his dance partner Sara Di Vaira on the latest episode of Italy’s ‘Dancing with the Stars.’
The duo gave a cringeworthy performance appropriating Indian culture on the dance reality show. They were dressed as Hindu Gods while doing what they claim was a samba to Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love.’ They threw in some Bollywood-ish hand gestures, Middle Eastern and Eastern-looking hand moves, and some flailing so-called bhangra steps that made a mockery of the dance forms. They set the stage with a Natraj statue and enormous CGI elephants. Gherardesca wore blue body paint and was as Lord Shiva while Vaira donned a micro mini lehenga. It is frustrating, to say the least, to constantly be misrepresented.
Dancer and choreographer Joya Kazi called out the performance and shared her outrage at the disrespectful performance and appropriation of Indian culture on social media. Recording artist Raja Kumari, expressing the same sentiments added a post with the tag “my culture is not a costume.” Their outrage is valid and many other South Asian fans also displayed their anger on social media.
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‼️UPDATE & Constantino’s public apology pinned at the top of the comments section👇🏽‼️ _ Dancing with the Stars Italy @ballandoconlestelle decides that dressing up as Lord Shiva, “dancing” to BEYONCÉ in front of a Natraj statue while throwing up a namaste & fake hand gestures here & there, twisting some lightbulbs & gyrating in front of a representation of a Lord in a miniskirt flanked by some elephants is honoring INDIA? You did this because you thought it would bring you luck @costantinodellagherardesca ? What is this disgusting piece of 🤬 that you’ve had the audacity to televise in the guise of “art” @saradivaira_real ? This was supposed to be a SAMBA? 😳 Like where is the actual dancing? This is nothing but a mockery & bastardization of culture & religion you know nothing about! DO YOUR HOMEWORK & STOP CHERRY-PICKING DANCE, CULTURE, RELIGION, & TRADITION FOR 2 MINUTES OF ABSOLUTE GARBAGE! We demand a public apology. Indian dance, culture & religion are mesmerizingly beautiful & ethereal. I am in absolute shock & can’t believe my soul had to endure viewing this, but this stuff happens all the time. Dear world, Bollywood is NOT a dance style that you can just throw together a bunch of random eastern looking movements to. It’s commercialized dance to songs from Indian films that take from TECHNICAL classical & folk dance forms that artists train in their whole lives. So many of us work relentlessly to educate & bring quality & representative work to the mainstream & then we get slapped in the face with this. Please please PLEASE HIRE the right choreographers 🙏🏽💔🙏🏽💔🙏🏽
A post shared by JOYA NANDY KAZI 🦋 (@joyakazi) on
The power of social media allowed the voices of Kumari and Kazi to be heard and Gheradesca released a formal apology for his performance. He states he was not aware and did not intend to hurt the sentiments of others and even joked that he’s a horrible dancer. Kazi also shared a follow-up post stating that she spoke with Gherdasca directly and educated him on why his performance was disrespectful. He was open to the discussion and his apology shows an understanding of the implications of his actions and remorse. Kazi initiated a positive dialogue that led to change and knowledge of how to prevent these actions in the future.
As they say, knowledge is power.
Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student who was born and raised in New York City. There is very little she loves more than Harry Potter marathons, pizza, 90s Bollywood, bagels, falooda, and her family. She hopes to use her powers for good by spreading mental health awareness and positivity in the South Asian community through her love of writing.