Dancing Queens

A dance troupe,made up of survivors of the sex trade,will tell their stories at a London festival.

Written by Ritam Halder | Published: March 13, 2012 3:09:01 am

Barnali,21,radiates a joie de vivre that she explains by pointing to her year-old son and her loving husband. Her career as a contemporary dance teacher in Kolkata,too,fills her days with music and moves,she adds. Later this month,however,she will present a dance performance like no other she has attempted before. Based on her past life and those of six girls who have escaped the red light world,the performance will open at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London on March 22 as part of an initiative called “Transforming Steps: Stand with Survivors of Sex Trafficking,Stand Against Exploitation”.

Barnali and troupe members are part of Kolkata Sanved,an NGO that uses dance as a means of therapy and rehabilitation. The choreography will play out to poetry based on the personal experiences of the seven dancers.

Barnali,for instance,was a runaway from Kolkata’s Santragachi area,who found herself being sold off to a brothel in Mumbai at the age of nine. For a month,she stayed in a small room with several other girls who were all being groomed to become queens of the night. Her “mentors” would hit them,keep them hungry and force them to watch adult films. One day,during a police raid,Barnali began to yell and caught the cops’ attention. She was rescued,but this was the beginning of a nomadic life from one children’s home to another. Another dancer,Sonali,recounts how she spent her childhood in the red light area of Kalighat in Kolkata where the threat of trafficking would keep her awake at night.

These real-life stories were translated into two pieces by London-based choreographer Mafalda Deville from the Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company. The first features poems written by the victims,while the other one is a Pilates-oriented performance sans music. The dancers have been practising their moves since January.

The performance will be filmed by Living Lens,an organisation that uses video as a means of therapy for survivors of human trafficking. The films will be screened across London during the forthcoming Olympic games. “Dance and video are the tools being used in this

campaign to spread awareness. What better platform than an

international forum to show the whole world harsh realities of

these girls’ lives,” says Sohini Chakraborty,Founder-Director of Kolkata Sanved.

Names of the Kolkata Sanved have been changed

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