Arts & Culture

The Dark Side of DU Dance Societies

The Feature Image has been used just for representative purposes.

Delhi University (DU) is known for its society-centric life. However, as societies slowly transcend into toxic spaces with lacking transparency, feedback mechanisms and rampant negligence, students face grave issues.

Delhi University (DU) is widely known for its society-oriented culture. As the academic calendar enters another cycle, students enter the cycles of application forms, interviews and auditions. However, when students face the other side of societies, mental health is compromised. DU Beat has come across various incidents reiterating the similar incidents and experiences as students put forth their concerns.

Societies often take a toll on one’s mental health. Students do not only suffer from the paucity of maintaining a balance between academics and co-curricular activities, but also face unnecessary pressures.

A former member of the Western Dance Society of a reputed girl’s college in South Campus said, “I was a part of my college’s dance society for 5 months. I’m a professionally trained dancer, so leaving a dance society was not something I would ever do. However, the entire environment of the society is so toxic, it’s unbelievable. They glorify the hierarchies they pursue, undermine the efforts of first years and elevate themselves to a pedestal where they want everybody to serve them. Dance is an art and it’s supposed to feel liberating, not something that frustrates and exhausts somebody mentally. They’ve made fun of how bad a dancer someone was, and had we lost a competition, they’d say how the team would be better off if we weren’t a part of it. There’s a lot of partiality that comes with it, too. The dance society has personally affected my mental health and my anxiety issues kept increasing. When I was leaving the society, the President and the Vice President, instead of understanding where I came from, went out to make jokes about how I left a society and how fragile that makes me. I’d never thought I’d feel this way, but a “dance” society made me want to stop dancing and I don’t think it gets worse than that.”

Another student from the same society told DU Beat about facing problems, “Our seniors in the Western Dance Society were extremely strict and hateful. They used to discourage me a lot and say hurtful things like tumhare bas ki nahi hai, shakal banani aati hai bas drama karwalo, bas khaana aata hai, iska kuch karo kaisi si hai, bahane mat banao (You won’t be able to do this, You can only make faces, You eat a lot, Somebody do something about her)-they were mentally and emotionally abusive.”

The person further explained, “I come from a very conservative family, so staying in a society practices till late was never easy for me but I tried my best, still I was met with incessant taunts. The entire core team – always responded with variations of the same taunts, alleged that I was a liar and bad at my craft. One even went as far as to tell me to sit on the lap of a guy friend from another college during a fest. I’ve major mental health issues and depression as a result of my experience with dance society”.

Clearly this is not an isolated issue in the circuit, as lots of students have admitted to facing untoward pressure, toxicity and mental health problems stemming from the misbehavior they face. At the same time, it is equally important to note that the fear instilled within students is to such an acute degree that students did not wish to name themselves or their societies citing negative repercussions. With toxic practices and lack of a proper feedback mechanism, societies are likely to inflict fear and take a toll on mental health.

The competitions organized by societies with DU have also undergone faulty mechanisms. Students claim that competitions have often succumbed to anarchy, mismanagement, manipulation of results and malpractices.

When DU Beat approached societies in order to gather responses of various teams across DU, a member of a reputed dance society who wished to remain anonymous furnished details of various competitions wherein discrepancies surfaced. The team primarily faced five issues.

The member told DU Beat that his team was not allowed to enter Daulat Ram College by the police and further stated- “they did the competition between 5-6 teams only, even after selecting 16 teams for the finals.”

The member also informed that Dyal Singh College (Morning) organised two events on the same dates for Street and Western Dance categories.  The member stated-“We had 3-4 competitions on that day. However, due to their mismanagement we were not allowed to perform. In fact, they did not allow 6-7 teams and conducted their competition between 5-6 teams even after selecting 16 finalists.”

The member asserted that the results had been changed by colleges. The member said, “In Deshbandhu College, (the) police were not allowing us to enter the college to perform but we somehow managed to enter the college. After the performance they refused to announce the results, and informed that the results will be announced next morning. However, the judge himself posted a confession on his story after the competition stating that the results had been changed by the teacher, a similar incident happened at Maitreyi College as well, the teachers had changed the results according to them.”

More instances regarding anarchy and mismanagement were cited, “There was a clash between Sri Venkateswara College (SVC) and Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS), something similar regarding the police situation happened on that day. The gates were closed due to some security issues. The teams were going to perform in SVC first, followed by SSCBS. However, the gates were closed and they were not allowing us to exit, many teams which were selected in SSCBS and SVC were not able to perform in SSCBS.  Only two teams who had the earlier slots in SVC were able to perform in SSCBS.”

With the lockdown, these problems and glitches do not cease to exist. Technical glitches and lack of attention find place in the online dance competitions that take place.

Arpita Chowdhury, a first-year student of DU said, “I participated in an online dance competition. There were certain technical glitches with our entry which got on our nerves. Furthermore, some random person shared all this on the confessions page without our permission. Then the organisers tried to resolve the issue and we personally also tried to find out who it was, however, in vain. This created a lot of problems. We lost the very enthusiasm to participate in the competition. My only advice to these reputed colleges is to look into these matters carefully and resolve such glitches with due consideration”.

We urge the societies to introspect into their hierarchies, enablement of toxic behaviour and other problematic concerns as well as address the same at the earliest possible. Investing in an art form one loves in order to hone ones skills should not come at the cost of someone’s physical, mental and emotional health. It’s imperative that societies act as responsible stakeholders of art and. Instead of solely focusing on the number of awards it has bagged and maintaining a capitalistic hierarchy, the main concern should be upholding the importance of art and indulging in it to create social awareness. It is hoped that the next academic session will give rise to leaders who will shoulder through these challenges and make the circuit a more safe, breathable and learning environment for their juniors.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat

Paridhi Puri

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Priyanshi Banerjee

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