Mesma Belsaré, an acclaimed Indian singer, dancer, artist, and transgender LGBTQ+ activist, spoke with Georgetown students about her creative process on Oct. 10. The event was co-sponsored by the LGBTQ Center, The India Initiative, and the South Asian Society, and was held to celebrate both Indian culture and OUTober, a month dedicated to LGBTQ representation and visibility.
Belsaré sang and danced an Indian classical piece for the university audience. Following the performance, she led a discussion on her experiences as a young child in the small city of Bhopal, India. Throughout the event, she wore a traditional Indian garment, a flowing white and gold salwar. She recounted asking her parents to send her to dance school with an ultimatum, “if you don’t send me to the dance class, I’m going to run away to Chennai,” she said, referring to her relatives who lived there. “I had packed my clothes in the bedsheet and thrown it outside the window.”
Belsaré continued, narrating her life at art school in Delhi, India and her “ravenous” hunger for dance, as well as her difficulties when first moving to the United States. Throughout, she emphasizes what she considers the “rigor of an artist.” “There is alienation, there is a lot of sorrow,” she said. “But that loneliness transmutes into beauty.”
As a Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer, Belsaré has performed around the world over the last few decades. Much of her dance and visual art studies gender, focusing on female representation. She frequently discusses the feminine divine, specifically the study of “those unfettered, untamed goddesses” of Hindu mythology.
Towards the end of her discussion, she showed a slide reading, “So What? Why does art matter?” With this, Belsaré questioned why we try to place values on the “usefulness” of art and beauty. When we see true beauty, she says, “we experience a certain surge of joy… that has surfaced precisely because we have kept our self-interest aside.” For Belsaré, beauty and love are the same: “[Beauty] happens when you are in the presence of someone you tru