By Archana Kumar
The expressions on peoples’ faces when they meet me range from “oh!” to “what have you done this time?” That’s mostly because I tend to go crazy with the way I dress. Also, because I’m well into my 30s, people think I should be done with crazy.
The truth is I was mostly a sober dresser when I was in my 20s. I stuck to more earthy tones and didn’t play around with my look as much as possible. After having my daughter, I decided to mix things up because I felt more bindaas. I figured, “why not go crazy with the way I look, who’s going to judge me now”?” I felt like I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted.
I’ve got two nose piercings, have dyed my hair multiple colours, shaved it all off, shaved half of it off, made varied patterns on it — whatever suits my fancy. I’ve got a thing for crazy earrings too; the ones that got the most comments were ones that had the Mona Lisa on them. I also love neon colours; so bright tops or leggings are my go to options. I love contrasting my clothing too.
Being an experimental dancer gives me the freedom to dress in any way I want to. I’ve been trained in kathak, and I teach movement and exploration through dance to 3-10 year olds children at Pramiti, which is a Montessori school in Bangalore. I also take kathak classes at my home, which is also my personal studio called Open Square. I also go to apartment complexes to teach people, and the range of people varies from little kids to old women. My own preferred style of dancing is post-modern. The reason behind this is because I believe that it is important to know the rules of movement and to train one’s body, before anyone tries to break out of the norms and discover their own style. My methods of teaching are varied too — I allow students to ask why they are learning what they are and let them question anything. This is a cornerstone belief of mine, something that seeps into even my clothing.
On a day-to-day basis, I wear kurtas and leggings when I go teach the kids. For my other performances, I design my own costumes or just use what I have lying around. I generally wear dresses to events and parties, with leggings because I ride a bike everywhere. I love layering my clothing too, yet the bra-on-top-of-shirt trend is honestly too bizarre for me to try. It seems so silly. I see a lot of people try to copy trends from others while they’re so obviously uncomfortable, it’s sad. One should draw inspiration and put comfort first, not try to be someone they’re not. Where I really go crazy in my dressing is with my accessories and hair.
To an extent, in the work I do, people are not surprised to see me look the way I look. It’s just something people have accepted that I do. I keep it sober around my students, (a little) because they do look up to me, and I have to be sure that they’re not learning the wrong things from me.
A lot of times, to my surprise, I’ve had people ask me if what I’ve got on has been designer, when it’s been from some small shop somewhere. I don’t put a lot of effort into my dressing, yet I do like keeping it mixed up. I follow the same mantra with my cooking too, as with everything else. I don’t like shopping from big brands, because it just feels like it’s a label that tells others that you have money to buy it.
I’m not an avid shopper, although I’ve collected a lot of clothes while I’ve been to Seattle, Japan and Korea. I’ve lived in Seattle for 10 years, and have done a lot of performances in the city, along with holding workshops. Japan and Korea are places where I’ve been to just for performances and workshops, yet on repeat visits I figured out where to go to buy the things I like. Last year was the 6th trip I made to Japan. In Bangalore, I shop at small regular stores if I ever feel like it.
This mixing up and contrasting things and keeping things new is something that I aim to do with everything that I do in life. I don’t like blindly following people or traditions; so when people get surprised that I do these things, I often tell them that it’s all in their heads; it’s something they just need to break out of. Questioning everything and anything is important — how else do we grow?
My partner is accepting of the way I am, he’s alright as long as I don’t drag him into all my crazy ideas. My family does make frequent remarks on my dress sense, they want me to be a better role model for my daughter.
I think she’s going to turn out just fine.