There is little to do at a kiddie birthday party( if you are not helping the host with dishing out cake, and other sundry goodies) other than sit back and be an anthropologist, or whatever else.
As the mother who works with the child all around her, I am in the priveleged postion of attending ALL the parties. The poor father, alienated from his child, slaves away in Nariman Point and is denied the insights available at these parties.
The party could be a home-grown affair like the ones I organise, or could be in restaurants- the drill is more or less the same. The party games I go nuts planning and thinking up are rare - the music plays, children dance, there might or might not be a screaming MC, the cake is cut and the food served. Its a pretty good routine, the kids love it.
The music - its always Bollywood songs. Again a pretty good idea, the kids love it.* The music begins to blare and they all start jumping around, from 2 years to 10, they all know what to do. Actually I err, they do not begin to jump around and move to the rhythm, they begin an elaborate routine of predefined steps, akin to those associated with the song in a film. Seldom do you see free movement. Even my child, who hardly watches any tv, has picked up the specific dance steps. If not, then instead of jumping in and moving her body, she watches and only then begins to mimic the steps around her.
Its at home that she jumps around to the rhythm of music. Its not filmy music. Songs from films can only be danced to in codified moves.
A pity really.
But berating the takeover of bollywood music in kiddy parties is not the point of this post.
Film music rocks-in my heart and in my head. Kids shouting saala, sexy in sync with a song bothers me a wee bit, but not long enough to stop me from joining in. (My child is mortified that I join in the dancing, and do not go through the prescribed routine but do my own thing. I think I have another year or two before she orders me to stop moving my booty, because I dont do it 'right'.)
Yesterday as I sat in a corner sipping my orange tang( cokes and their ilk have pretty much been banned from most parties- yippee- its back to rooh afza and tang) I watched the little ones dance with gusto. It pleased me no end that the steps, especially for the girls, are aggressive and energetic. The sexuality is unabashed too. Gone are the delicate, pretty steps. And the shy, come hither sexuality is erased completely. These kids will grow up with a different notion of the body- the girls, if dance remains an important definer of the body for them as they grow older, seem assertive and walk with a swagger.
I guess after making a film on the Carribbean- I have a totally different take on how sexuality is foregrounded in the dance. I see these children play out elaborate sexualised moves dressed in their cotton frocks, with no one as an audience , they dance for themselves. The moves dont bother me in this context. Infact, I welcome the warrior like dance moves in place of seductive, feminine steps.
Its when I see the little girls and boys dressed like Saif and Kareena, enacting those highly sexualised moves, in front of an audience of doting adults, or worse in front of TV cameras in studios that will reward the winning pair with xyz amount of money that I get creeped out. Its a very small shift, you might say, but therein lies the critical difference.
The first instance is about children dancing unabashedly for themselves. The second is about perfecting the moves for appreciation. Perfecting the moves is where the sense of body and self moves into another sphere- the pout at the right moment - the shake of the hip in response to a pelvic thrust in sync. Thats disconcerting.
Now I am told that the child is rehearsing for the annual day function. A dance based on 'Dhol baje'. The boys have been given their set of moves and the girls have their own. Will the boys be aggressive and energetic and the girls pretty and delicate? From what I see my child doing at home, i think thats what it will be. I would be happy to see the whole lot of them jumping with abandon like Shahrukh**. I think I am going to be dissapointed that robust aggression will be neatly pencilled out of the way the girls will dance. Luckily birthday parties allow the girls to jump like Shahrukh, rather than slither like Shilpa Shetty. But I need not loose heart, Kareena and her creed seem to be holding their hands up in the air with abandon much more than her bosom and bottom thrusting sister.
I think I will show Sanah Mumtaz dancing in 'Jai Jai Shiv Shankar' . And I will buy the CD before the next birthday.
* Sanah's last party I forgot to buy film music. The kids suffered through Calypso, Raeggae and Mallu drums that I had chosen as vibrant, energetic music. I was the laughing stock of the party. The children were annoyed, the adults mocked me and we played Dil Chahta Hai a million times.
**What Shahrukh has done to filmy dance desereves a seperate post- I love him for his love of his body. His love for his body does not translate to thrusting his chest, muscles or pelvis into my face. He moves his torso, his arms, his legs with masti. His sexuality is not about body parts.