Eshan Hilal - Belly Dancer

Eshan is a Belly Dancer, Gender Fluid Model, Fashion Graduate and a Kathak Dancer (Lucknow Gharana). He is based in Delhi and currently working as a Belly Dancing Instructor and Performer.

The First Step

Hailing from a conservative Indian family, Eshan faced a lot of apprehensions - "You are a boy, you can't belly dance", he recalls constantly being told.

When Eshan was in the 8th grade, he remembers the day his father discovered his pair of hidden ghungroos in the house and was livid with anger. Scared but equally resolved, Eshan left the house with whatever little savings he had to audition for ‘Boogie Woogie’ in Nainital but could only reach upto Rudrapur, approximately 80 km short of Nainital.

Eshan, for the next 7- 8 months, worked as a cleaner in a resort in Rudrapur. In the meanwhile, his family ran a ‘missing child’ campaign. As the campaign started garnering more attention, the owner of the resort became aware of Eshan’s situation and intimated his family, who immediately came and took him back home.

Foot to Foot

Recovering from this harrowing incident wasn’t easy for either Eshan or his family. But eventually, Eshan recalls, a compromise was reached - Eshan was to be allowed to pursue a career in fashion if he gave up dancing. To add to that, Eshan says "I brainwashed myself. I made myself think I cannot be a dancer since everyone told me that my dance form is girlish".

The Leap

While pursuing a course in Fashion, Eshan ventured into gender-fluid modelling. This provided him with a platform to explore himself.

Eshan says, “I was blown away by the fact that heels were originally worn by men, and it was only after a few hundred years that women started wearing them”. But as Eshan started walking on the ramp, he soon realised that it’s not about gender but fashion - that dressing up is a gender-neutral choice. And the moment he started expressing himself, things began to fall in place.

The Twists

A crucial point in Eshan’s life was when he performed at NIFT for the first time. The overwhelming media coverage of the event subsequently landed him with a major modelling assignment with Amazon and soon afterwards, more doors started opening for him.

Later, Eshan started working for a reputed Design House in Delhi. And now that he was more independent, he had an opportunity to explore further in life. It was then that he rediscovered his long lost love for dancing and decided to learn belly dancing professionally. Eshan soon quit his job and started devoting his entire time and energy to belly dancing exclusively. He considers this to be the turning point in his life - “This experience changed me completely. Not only as a dancer but also, as a person.”

Dancing as a Profession

Always passionate about dance, Eshan started his journey young. And despite being formally trained in Kathak, Eshan has now chosen to carve a niche for himself as a male belly dancer.

According to him, there is a growing need for institutionalising other lesser known forms of dance on the lines of traditional Indian classical dance forms which have a proper curriculum pertaining to practical as well as theoretical aspects. This will equip budding artists to pursue dance-forms such as belly dancing more systematically.

What Next

Although Eshan frequently performs internationally, he plans to settle within India. He explains, “I love India, I love the fact that I am helping change perceptions. Those who used to mock me have started praising me. If in the short span of a few years, I could change people’s perception towards the art form, then I believe that there is a potential to do much more.”

Stressing that it is not about the ramp, but about the reach, Eshan wants to establish his own Fashion label in the future. But he adds that he can never stop dancing. What he values the most in this journey is ‘self-acceptance’.

“Irrespective of your gender, profession, age or appearance, it is about acceptance. Respect yourself and keep doing your hard work and it will pay off one day.”

#bellydance #fashion #dreams #whiterslates #careers #design #eshanhilal

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