New York-based dancer Vinita Hazari’s creation is strikes a chord with South Asian American women.
Most little girls around the world grow up listening to fairy-tales and often learn their first lessons on love and life inspired by the princesses in the stories. As questions about diversity and inclusivity gain mainstream attention, also has the scope of these fairy tales. In fact, there has been noise for some time about how often these Western fairy tales give a very white-washed view of the world. Stories of colored women of courage and brown princesses are still hard to come by in American popular culture. And an absence of an Indian American Disney princess has been debated about in the past few years.
While we still await a brown princess in popular stories, a New York City-based dancer and choreographer has found a unique way to address the issue while giving young South Asian girls a chance to feel represented.
Vinita Hazari, an emerging choreographer, has been creating innovative concept videos that talk about inclusion, diversity and stigmas within the South Asian community. A trained kathak dancer, Hazari recently created a video where she, dressed like an Indian princess, dances alongside the snowman character Olaf from the hit Disney film Frozen. Her video, which has been viewed more than 50,000 times, struck a chord with South Asian women who have often felt a lack of representation, especially in American culture and entertainment. Hazari reinforces her point by incorporating a kathak-based semi classical dancer in her video, as Olaf is seen synchronizing with her moves.
“I absolutely love the idea of Frozen and the reconceptualization of a modern day princess, where they are warriors as well,” she told the American Bazaar
About incorporating Indian elements as she dances to the hugely popular Frozen soundtrack “Do you want to build a snowman” interspersed with classical Indian beats, she said, “I have always loved Indian history since it is full of warriors like Jhansi ki Rani. I wanted to create something for young South Asian girls so that they feel seen and represented.”
As soon as she posted the video, Hazari saw an overwhelming response. Women of all ages saw and related to the idea that strong brown representation is something that is seldom seen. Hazari wrote on her video post on Instagram: “From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your love on this one. This project is so dear to my heart and a labor of love from so many talented people. I hope one day @disney can provide a lifelong dream to a generation of Indian girls by seeing a princess that looks like them.”
Hazari said shooting the video was a complex process in and of itself. “I was very rehearsed . We needed to choreograph it in a way that the animator could replicate Olaf to my moves.”
The video has vocals by musician Kirthana Srikanth. It was filmed by Mark Salud. Kavindra Sahabir composed the score and animation was done by Chris Burton.
Hazari, who has been dancing for over 14 years now, has also been gaining attention for her videos that target mental health stigmas in South Asian communities. She’s released a series of videos portraying the negative impact unwelcoming South Asian stigma can have on mental health. She conceptualizes, produces, choreographs and performs in dance videos. A trained kathak dancer she has also trained in hip-hop, jazz, and ballet.