The bane of every woman with advancing age is the specter of arms that resemble wobbly chicken chins - flapping in the wind. We spend many hours in the gym climbing various machines, puffing with personal trainers and standing before mirrors moaning the bulges and flabbiness. As for dancers? Forget it! We continuously look above in gratitude for the Indian choli’s and western bodysuits that camouflage those far-from-sculpted limbs, while on stage. Upper arms are the most difficult to tone and maintain as Father Time watches. Don’t tell that to Shobhaa De or Hema Malini who, at 60 plus, proudly show off their slim arms in public. Or dancers Padmini Chettur and Aditi Mangaldas. Working tirelessly on her pencil thin body, Padmini shows off her toned legs and arms on stage with short dresses and sleeveless tunics. A crowded Kalakshetra hall watched Chettur’s bold ensemble presentation PUSHED last December with several sets of bare legs and arms in superb condition. Her new work BEAUTIFUL THING-ONE has the group in shorts and sleeveless tops.
Aditi Mangaldas’s new production, NOW IS, has a stunning image of her swathed in a Wendell Rodricks’ black crepe. Aditi’s arms and shoulders are exposed. Her earlier work TIMELESS had costumes by Rajesh Pratap in which she wore a bustier. I watched the performance earlier this year in Toronto where Aditi -all of 5 feet tall -carried off the design and the dancing with aplomb. Not so for the rest of her ensemble who looked uncomfortable and out of shape in the unforgiving designs. An image from Chandralekha’s work flashed across my mind. A large group of women, clothed in simple earthy cotton saris, one dancer, distinctly plump, but moving as easily as the rest of the group. In this instance, it did not disturb me since the swathe of the Indian drape embraced the physical difference gracefully.
US President Obama jokes about his wife’s penchant to wear sleeveless dresses. Michelle works on those muscles by rising daily at 430 am. An African American, she too, like us, carries a DNA that states Ajanta hips and Ellora breasts are our birthright!
As I exercise under the unforgiving gaze of my trainer and women across India sweat it out in spaces other than the rehearsal studios, I send best wishes and a salute to all women who puff, pant, climb, step, run, jog, dance, walk, bend, lift, crunch and sweat to just squeeze into those skinny jeans and leggings. As for Aditi, Padmini, Shobhaa and Hema - they have the right to bare arms. I just have to thank my bodysuits!