Dance is a way to showcase culture. For choreographer and dancer Usha Jey, it’s also a way to show love and respect. Trained in the Indian classical dance of Bharatnatyam, she uses elements of the traditional technique and pairs it with the hip-hop style. The result is an electrifying combination in which the precise movement of Bharatnatyam seamlessly blends into the swagger of hip-hop, all set to contemporary rap songs.
Jey calls this fusion #HybridBharatham, and she’s produced five different dances (filmed as episodes) so far. Episode five, which features the song “Uproar” by Lil Wayne featuring Swizz Beatz, has gone viral. “My aim is to keep the essence of each dance,” she says of the video and series, “and create something that does justice to who I am.”
Jey also uses the lyrics of the music to inform the dance and allow her to express feelings towards global issues of oppression. Episode four, featuring the song “One Hundred Thousand Flowers” by Shan Vincent de Paul, features choreography commenting on the civil war between separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government.
“Expressing the anger, frustration, and sadness I accumulated in me into this piece that I dedicate to the one hundred thousand Tamils who lost their lives because of the Tamil Genocide committed by the Sri Lankan government,” Jey writes, “that is still not recognized as a genocide by the United Nations. Do you see the situation Tamils are still facing today in Sri Lanka? When will the world stop ignoring us?”
Scroll down to see more episodes of #HybridBharatham.
Choreographer and dancer Usha Jey is trained in the Indian classical dance of Bharatnatyam.