It is not only the glint of her nose pin or the gleam of her dimples that define Kumari Suraj’s personality and passion, but also the innate ebullience that engenders a certain positive energy that she exudes everywhere she goes.
Known as the ‘Queen of Waacking’, Kumari Suraj, who was born into an Indian-American household, has several firsts to her credit. She was the first to upload Waacking choreography videos on YouTube, the first Waacking choreographer for the TV show So You Think You Can Dance and the first choreographer to showcase the first Waacking collective, House of Suraj, and Bollywhack on Star Plus’s Dance Plus Season 3. Suraj also launched LA’s International Waack/Punk/Pose Festival (Waackfest), and blend Waacking’s signature arm work with Dancehall, Bharatanatyam, Bhangra, Indian folk dance, House & 90s Hip Hop, among others, to concoct her two unique styles — Bollywhack and Frankie Douglas.
Kumari Suraj was in the city, to impart Waacking skills to enthusiasts, in a workshop organised by Happy Hours Dance Place. In a candid chat, she shares with us, her passion for the art and love for India. Excerpts:
Grooving to Waacking
I was born in San Francisco, into a Sikh and Christian household. My father is a Punjabi and mother, American. Both my parents loved disco. Music was always there in the house. So, I grew up amidst a variety of music and dance, like disco, punk, classical music, etc. I learned many different styles of dancing and got into Waacking in 2003 — and it changed my life. Waacking has helped me grow in many different ways — to embrace womanhood, dress however I wanted and more importantly, to be fabulous and fearless.
Whacking the hurdles
Reality shows happened by chance. I walked into my agency one day when they informed me about the opening for So You Think You Can Dance. I gave the audition and they liked me.
Casting directors of Star Plus called me after they watched my Bollywhack videos on YouTube.
As far as challenges go, I was one of the first few people to put Waacking videos on YouTube and I got a lot of flak for that. It hurt me at that time because I just wanted to express and be bold, but was bullied and picked on a lot for being a trendsetter. It isn’t easy being the first of anything. And once you are the first, you got to learn how to evolve.
What I am on the lookout for now, are sponsors or funding to create an exchange programme where Indians can come abroad and learn the art, while people from there can come to India, to learn the art here.
Love for India & Hyderabad
I was in Hyderabad three years ago for my first workshop. Ever since, Waacking scene has really taken off here, like in the rest of India. It’s exploding now.
I’ve been in Hyderabad twice and have made some of my best friends here, beautiful artists, some of the people whom I love the most. I love coming here to spend time with them because the city has a great energy. People are warm and welcoming, and the city is a great platform for creative minds to explore and experiment.