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Breaking Stereotypes : Artists Don’t Need Wings To Fly

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In conversation with Premanand Sahoo, famous Odissi dancer, student of  Padmashri Guru Smt. Madhavi Mudgal and who wishes to shatter typical “Mard” stereotype.

What if you are asked to choose your dreams, passion and profession on the basis of your gender? And above all why does society has to decides what an individual should pursue. Premanand Sahoo turned out to be that person who dared to dream and challenged the standard stereotypes of society. He chose dance as his dream and currently doing training under Padmashri Guru Smt. Madhavi Mudgal in Odissi dance at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. He is also the recipient of the scholarship instituted by the Sahitya Kala Parishad, Government Of Delhi.

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To pursue his dreams Prem had to go through many hardships that include both physical and mental trauma. He was constantly under the pressure of people around him to stop what he was doing. While expressing about his struggle to The Interview Times, he said that “My experience is sadly similar to what many male dancers endure throughout their training and careers: name-calling, physical intimidation, cyberbullying, sometimes even death threats.”

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While talking about his early experiences when he barely had any idea how the future is going to look like, he recollected that ” It was never easy being a male dancer in a society that stereotyped dance as being for the girls. I was bullied, taunted and ridiculed for this by my classmates in school and college.”

 Also, he said that ” I constantly facing the issue of the name-calling like Prem- The dancing queen, mammu, chamiya, mitta,chakka, homo etc. This continued for a long time”.

 Prem recalls how after years of holding back and dealing with all the harassments one fine day he froze and decided to give up his passion for dancing. That’s when his parents played the most essential role in his life they smiled, questioned his determination and perseverance. They made him realise that his dreams are more important than what people talk about him and that was the point from where Prem decided that there is no looking back.

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According to Prem his parents and especially his mother is the backbone of whatever he has achieved or dared to in his life. Apart from dancing, he has learnt a special kind of painting which is known as “Chitta”, famous in the eastern part of India. He also does his own makeup which is considered as one of the tough and most essential parts in Odissi dance.

Over the past year, he has performed both solo and group in various prestigious dance festivals in India and in abroad like the UK under his guru. Also, he is associated with many groups in breaking the stereotype of the ideal mard by wearing dhoti and saree. He also wishes to present the rich culture and tradition of Odisha in front of the entire world through his dance.

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Lastly, Prem has a small wish on how changes could be brought to stop stereotype thinking. He said, ” The dance world should get into public schools, especially younger grades, to show what both men and women do in the dance world—any kind of dance.”

We wish him all the good luck and may his dream and endeavour come true. May he keep flaunting the beauty of Odisha i.e. Odissi dance all over the world.

Interviewed And Written By – Shilpa Dey

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