Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dance baby dance

This appeared on GQIndia.com today.

I was at an ice hockey game recently. Just as I entered the arena, the referee dropped the puck between two opposing forwards and off began a terrific adrenalin pumping game. It was the usual: the barely there goals, the screams, the fights, an almost broken tooth on one of the wingers, caramel popcorn; the works. There was nothing there that I hadn't seen before or so I thought.

During penalties or stoppages, the Cheerleaders or Ice Girls as they're popularly knows as, would storm out like an avalanche on their skates with cleaning gear, their midriffs bared, sweeping the ice that’d pile up on the rink. While the male audiences around opted for sleaze infused verbal outbursts ("yeah clean it hard baby"), my eyes rested on a certain cheerleader doing the rounds. It took me two rounds of them sweeping to figure out the interest factor. She was our very own! Desi facial features (I was in the front row and got a good close up once as she stormed passed me), long dark hair and however much I try to steer clear of stereotyping, what appeared to be classic desi curves. So bizarre!

The concept has been alive in the West way too long for anyone to give it a second thought. I’d once come across a six year old cheerleader with such kickass moves, I suspected she might turn into a one girl army and put the pro ones out of business soon. It's no pom-poms and pep rallies here; its big business. Some high schools offer it as a credited course and several colleges offer scholarships for it. I might get in trouble for writing this but they make it look like they practice more than the team they cheer for.

It's been a rather new thing for India since IPL came around. With movie stars and industrialists stepping forward to have stake in cricket teams, it was hardly surprising that some elements of entertainment were introduced. As with anything new and provocative, this also got its share of bad publicity, outrage and condemning. But resilience is built upon surviving criticism and fighting back as Shahrukh Khan had displayed by referring to cheerleading as a 'sport'. I don’t get why there’s no room for Indian cheerleaders on cricket teams though. From item song extras to dancing on the field, the transition has been seamless for the exotic ones. The thick whitening lotions for men and women won’t let our obsession with light skin die, will it?

But this reverse trend had me part cringe, part rejoice. Like most other significant or otherwise developments in the world, I probably slept through the shift when one, possibly several Indian girls strived to make a mark in an unusual profession on foreign soil.

Later that weekend I googled that ice hockey team's cheerleader webpage. As is the fate of half my stories, she wasn't Indian, just looked the part. Yeah, I tend to go too far.

Here's a link to the article on GQIndia.com http://www.gqindia.com/content/dance-desi-dance

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