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‘It is rare for a woman to perform Haryanvi folk dance in a male costume’

Apeejay, Faridabad student, Aan Parashar wants to change the perception of Haryana and challenge stereotypes.



An actress and dancer, Aan Parashar, a Class 12 Humanities student at Apeejay, Faridabad, is the youngest awardee across the country to receive the Atal Samman at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi in 2020 for her contribution to co-curriculars. With five documentaries and a feature film to her name such as ‘Meri Beti, Mera Guroor’, ‘Durga,’ ‘Aanya – The Story Begins, ‘Kashmir after Article 370,’ ‘Dulhan ki Awaz’ which are currently available on YouTube, her film, ‘Sukanya Bani Hai Durga’ was released at a cinema hall in Faridabad in February this year. The movie would soon be releasing regionally in parts of North and South India, as Parashar aims to challenge stereotypes with her skills.

When did you commence your journey?

I have been dancing since I was 4, and have learnt several dance forms such as Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Freestyle and Bollywood. I eventually switched to folk dance and in the past 4-5 years, I have been performing the Haryanvi folk dance. At the same time, I learnt face expressions and gestures which go hand-in-hand with dance. Till now, I have performed at numerous events and stages such as Siri Fort, FICCI and Lakshmikant auditoriums in front of notable luminaries and politicians.

Why did you choose Haryanvi Folk dance?

We have folk dance and folk dancers in every state of India yet we see youngsters of my generation wanting to copy Western art forms and social media is proof of that. Like many others, I too have grown up influenced by Western dance forms but I chose this one because it rings with me. I did initially feel that I could not do it, and feared being called out by people. To see a woman in a male character dressed in pagdi, dhoti, kurta was unconventional for the audience, and more so because I could do both male and female dance forms well.

I want people to appreciate and be proud of their language and culture. It is disheartening how people grade Haryanvi folk dance as a lesser art form, which is untrue. A true folk dancer is one who respects each and every culture and I am performing with pure intentions, wanting for people to recognise the beauty of the culture of Haryana. In India, people have labelled the state as an ‘akkhad’ (rude) state, but dance is just my way of expression to contest that.

“For a long time, I used to discourage my father from posting my videos on social media platforms thinking that my friends would make fun of me. But I have built the confidence to say, yes, I am a woman coming from a modern household choosing to perform Haryanvi folk dance.” 

-Aan Parashar, dancer and actress

What has been your inspiration?

My family has always motivated me. My father, mother, and grandfather are all strong academicians. Nobody in the family, before me, ever thought of moving beyond education to pursue co-curriculars. I also credit my achievements to my Guru – Lokesh Atri, an International-level Haryanvi dancer. He taught me the value of staying true to one’s roots. Apeejay has played a crucial role in my journey and provided a lot of stage opportunities to me. Our Principal Ma’am, Dr. Parul Tyagi, has been very supportive and has helped me build confidence. She has motivated me to perform well and the support I have received from my family and teachers has kept me going.

What would be your tips for women folk dancers?

I would like to say that there is nothing to be shy about wearing a Haryanvi costume and performing on-stage. If on the same stage, you are confident performing a western dance form, then by performing folk dance, you are going a step further. It is an embarrassment if you don’t know your culture, so try to learn about your roots. Do not hide behind social media and shock people by being unique.

“Follow your dreams with passion and perseverance and that would change the direction of your life. I am extremely proud of Aan Parashar and the focus with which she is scripting her success story, never losing sight of academics in the process. Judiciously, she is maintaining the balance at this young age. She is confidently working towards carving her distinctive identity. Our best wishes are with her for all times to come!”  

-Dr. Parul Tyagi, Principal, Apeejay School, Faridabad

Mrini Devnani is a Principal Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, conducts interviews, and contributes content to the website. Previously, she served as a Correspondent specialising in Edu-tech for the India Today Group. Her skill areas extend to Social Media and Digital Marketing. For any inquiries or correspondence, you can reach out to her at [email protected].