Single Journeys: Not Your Typical Bharatanatyam Dancer

This is the third in the Single Journeys series in collaboration with INK Talks.

Charles Ma overcame discrimination as a non-South Indian male to become a Bharatanatyam dancer. He practiced in secret, worked odd jobs and devoted his life to the artform—see the results in this celebration of Bharatanatyam.

The world of Bharatanatyam is filled with age-old traditions which have passed on through generations. This makes the community of dancers quite small and in simple terms- clannish. In this sea of dancers, finding a male dancer is rare; let alone finding a male dancer of Chinese origin. Charles Ma is breaking all these walls down and through the ridicule & the ‘racism,’ he has made a name for himself as one of the most skilled Bharatanatyam dancers in the country.

Initiated into the sacred world of Bharatanatyam under Guru Smt. Vidya Shimladka, his dance stands out for its distinct individuality, personality, and control. However, he has found it difficult to chase his dreams in the context of a modern, global world. As aptly put by him,

“I still constantly struggle between this dichotomy of a sacred art, born and nurtured in the temples of southern India and the milieu of a city that is probably the best paradigm of a truly globalizing city.”

– The Hindu, 26th May 2012

Not being deterred, Charles has given dance his utmost focus, hardwork, patience, commitment, and in turn has gained a deep spirituality and aesthetics towards the world of dance.

Expanding his repertoire, Charles is also a contemporary choreographer and teacher, with his own dance school.


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