This story is over 5 years old.


This Theatre Troupe Isn't Dancing Around HIV

A recent performance in Delhi aims to start a dialogue about the disease.
Photo by Vijay Pandey

India’s has the third largest HIV population in the world, and awareness about the disease is still relatively low. On May 18, on HIV Vaccination Awareness Day, organisations like International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), Delhi Dance Theater, PULSE and I Am Positive India, came together in Delhi and hosted a performance called "I am + : Dance Theater on HIV India".

The directors for the performance flew in from New York City, while some performers were chosen from the Delhi Dance Theatre.


Held at the LTG Auditorium, the performance featured characters such as a man who contracts HIV and is ostracised by society, and a doctor who has a powerful impact on an HIV patient. The performance was preceded by an art exhibition at the same venue.

According to the National AIDS Control Organisation's 2017 report this report, there are new areas of infection in Gujarat, Bihar, Delhi, Chhattisgarh Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. An estimated 62,000 people died from AIDS-related diseases in India in 2016.

VICE spoke to some of the artists, those on stage and behind it, who made the event possible.

Emily McLoughlin, Director

“Every country is different to work in. I have worked on many awareness projects, what I find different in India is we were asked so many questions as to why we want to use performing arts for education. We encountered a lack of support from organisations in understanding the aim of I am + and how we intend to use music and dance to disseminate the information about HIV in India.”

Sumiran Kabir Sharma, Costume Designer

“Our clothes are very drapey and flowy. We give the freedom to the wearer to be fluid. So as a dance-dominated performance, the performers felt a connection with the fabric. Our clothes and the performers are sort of misfits who fit together.”

Nawa Lanzilotti, Director and cellist

“A difference that really stood out to me in doing a piece on a social issue, and on top of that a public health issue such as HIV in India against other countries, was silence. The silence around sexual health, sexual and reproductive rights, and women's empowerment in the general population provided a challenge.”


Fakhroddin Ghaffari, Musician

“This is not easy; it is very different from playing a purely musical performance. The enthusiastic response demonstrates the unique musicality and sensibility of this ensemble. It’s a testament to how all of us were able to not only connect to each other, but to what was also happening on stage.”

Leah Raphael Curtis, Director

“Theater, dance, music and visual art is an excellent medium to reach and cross borders. These are the vehicles and currency of culture. And value systems of a people are defined by culture, for example, how a society treats its weaker sections like women.”

Follow Parthshri Arora on Twitter.