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This Bharatanatyam Dancer is Radically Challenging Racial Stereotypes

“Even now, some kids standing around the temple, will say, “Chinese teacher, Chinese teacher."”

What’s your mental picture of a Bharatanatyam dancer? We wouldn’t blame you if it involved a woman with long braided hair embellished with sweet-smelling flowers, wearing a lush Kanjivaram silk sari and temple jewellery, almond eyes heavily lined with kohl. We wouldn’t blame you if it were nothing like Charles Ma. But there he is, spectacularly shattering the biases and stereotypes crowding our minds, one mudra at a time.


Part-Nepalese, part-Chinese, along with Northeastern roots, Charles Ma grew up in a Tamil community in Bengaluru. Mystified by Bharatanatyam, he decided to dedicate his life to Nataraj. However, the journey wasn’t easy for him. His physical features were not in alignment with what is generally accepted in the realm of classical dance. And that led to incidents of racial discrimination, when he was categorically told that he was not the right fit in the world of classical dance.

charles ma bharatanatyam dancer

But Ma broke the mould and chipped away at the stereotype, to become one of the few male Bharatanatyam dancers in India.

In this episode of VICE Meets, he talks to us about what it means to be a classical dancer with distinctive facial features in a society that remains rooted in racism and discrimination.

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