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Feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Inspires 7-Part South Asian Dance Series

5 min read

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.

We say to girls, “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful – otherwise, you will threaten the man.”

Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make life choices, always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. [Now] marriage can be a system of joy, and love, and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?

We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments – which I think can be a good thing – but for the attention of men.

We teach girls they cannot be sexual beings in the same way boys are.

FEMINIST: “A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (TEDx Talk, 2013)


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech in Beyoncé’s “Flawless” inspired Bollyshaker Reejuta Joshi to create an exclusive seven-part original dance series, with each episode titled after a powerful word. Here Reejuta explains her thoughts around the concept:

“It’s 2018. What are these expectations? How are we not challenging them? How can we change them? Progression from these standards is the only expectation. These are the conversations we need to begin having.

Through dance, an unspoken energy guided by an inherent beat and rhythm, we can openly express and try to understand that which we question. In FLAWLESS, we explore into each major theme Adichie presents (SHRINK, AMBITION, MARRIAGE, COMPETITORS, SEXUAL) through a South Asian lens that is guided by Eastern tradition but realized in a Western upbringing.

This project has brought together the brilliance of young South Asian artists with a largely collaborative effort in choreography, costume, makeup, music, videography…all of it. With New York City as our main stage, we present to you an artistic visualization of a FEMINIST.”


SONG: Flawless (Live) – Beyonce

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta) & Proma Khosla (@promawhatup)

VIDEOGRAPHY: Rutvik Katuri (@rutvikkaturi)

MAKEUP: Gurleen Kaur (@gurleenkaurbeauty)

An invitation to engage in a dance series exploring the meaning of Feminist through themes inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


SONG: Mind Right – Raaginder

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta) & Proma Khosla (@promawhatup)

VIDEOGRAPHY: Alan Tan (@thealantan_)

MAKEUP: Gurleen Kaur (@gurleenkaurbeauty)

COSTUME (TOPS): Srishti Guptaroy (@srishti.roy)

“Shrink” felt to be the most openly negative word of all that Adichie uses. Therefore, it was important for us to find how to look at it in an optimistic light. We tried to depict growth in our movements – we go from small to stretched throughout the choreography. The lighting is meant to feel optimistic and we wanted to shoot in an open space that felt free. The overall choreography is very contemporary and comes from our roots. Proma’s mom used to teach us contemporary dance in the style of Uday Shankar, so a lot of the movements have been drawn from that training. With costume, we went more contemporary as well – the tops have sketches of women on them and are by Proma’s aunt, Srishti Guptaroy.


SONG: Hungry – Fergie

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta), Jessica Cardona (@jess_one_big_handful), Beatrice Cardona (@beatrice_cardona)

VIDEOGRAPHY: Alan Tan (@thealantan_)

MAKEUP: Gurleen Kaur (@gurleenkaurbeauty)

COSTUME (TOPS): MWAM (@musicwam), Renaissance Youth Council (@renaissanceyouthcouncil)

I’m a mentor to Jessica Cardona through the program iMentor. It’s a college success program, and this fall, Jessica and her twin sister will be applying to college. When they wanted to be involved in the project, this piece of the concept just felt right. In high school, they are already so focused on making their home (the Bronx) a better, safer place. They’re a part of Music with a Message (MWAM) through Renaissance Youth Council. MWAM travels the country to perform, host workshops, and spread a message of productivity and ambition through after-school programs. Jessica is such an inspiration to me. She and her sister represent everything about ambition to me. So, we wanted to represent sharing art with a message that was pertinent to them.


SONG: Silsila Yeh Chahat Ka Remix

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta) & Soumya Shastri (@soumz_93)

VIDEOGRAPHY: Hannah Tran (@hannahtran.prod)

MAKEUP: Concept by Gurleen Kaur (@gurleenkaurbeauty)

“Silsila” is an interesting song about love and waiting. We focused on semiclassical fusion choreography and used the lyrics to express that this desire, this waiting, this love, is something we are expecting from the man just as much as we are from the woman. A healthy marriage is beautiful, and the main thing we wanted to show was that a woman has as much a place to command yearning in love as a man does. At the end of the dance, you’ll notice that we walk away. It’s not walking away from the institution but it’s rather a call for a man to join in the concept of marriage as an equal. We have a step where we toss off rings to showcase that we are not in a subordinate position but that we are equals.


SONG: No Drama – Tinashe

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta), Tanya Thanawalla (@tanya_thanawa), Asees Singh (@aseesk), Proma Khosla (@promawhatup), Soumya Shastri (@soumz_93)

VIDEOGRAPHY: Zurisaddai Corona Jr. (@zurisaddaicjr)

COSTUME (TOPS): Eliza Karazah (@kweenkaraza) of Harakaat Apparel (@harakaat.apparel)

This was the most exciting for me as every single girl here has a different dance background. We have all trained differently so our dance vocabulary is different. It was AMAZING to come together and fuse all of our styles to help each other grow. The choreography process for this was so cool. There was always so much input and all our steps challenged each other in so many ways. Even once we got the steps down, our nuances were different, and that was such an empowering thing to see and embrace. We got on a basketball court together not as competitors, but to help each other excel. So amazing. Also, our shirts were custom made by Eliza Karazah. I had reached out to her about the project and she hand painted 5 different shirts to emphasize our differences but also bring us together for this concept. In the title, we crossed a line through the word COMPETITORS to emphasize that, as strong women, we do not see each other that way.


SONG: Ramta Jogi Remix

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta) & Shachi Phene (@shachiphene)

DANCERS: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta), Shachi Phene (@shachiphene), Priyanka Trivedi (@pritrivedi), Proma Khosla (@promawhatup), Soumya Shastri (@soumz_93)

VIDEOGRAPHY: Korie Genius…unsure whether that’s his real name tbh (@geniusphotos00)

Shachi Phene had previously choreographed Ramta, and I wanted to reprise her choreography for this remix. The song is all about desire, and we wanted to show that it’s completely fine (valid?), empowering, and amazing for women to express their sexuality. The choreography largely drew from classical in order to offset any obvious sexuality. We also have steps that are very sexual, and our strength is in showing we can choose between the two. Shooting this in Times Square was EPIC. It is such an iconic place – people from all over the world come to New York to be able to experience Times Square. There felt no place more appropriate to show an openness to freely express innate desires.


SONG: Flawless Speech

CHOREOGRAPHY: Reejuta Joshi (@reejuta) & Proma Khosla (@promawhatup)

VIDEOGRAPHY: MJ Abiva (@ninjastealth)

MAKEUP: Gurleen Kaur (@gurleenkaurbeauty)

Here, we wanted to tie together the whole series with the speech it all came from. We actually choreographed this one first. We use bits of this choreography through the series as well. I think this one speaks for itself.