BANGALORE, India — When Delhi-based movement artist Eshna Kutty shared her first #SareeFlow video, the idea was to have fun with her hoop in a saree “without the pressure of being a delicate lady.” The 24-year-old has become an overnight phenomenon, a social media star of her own right who is paving the way for Indian hoopers to showcase their talent.
“#SareeFlow has been on my mind for some time now. I thought it about during the quarantine because the general emotion in 2020 has been gutting. I wanted to drift away from it all for myself because it felt really good to dress up for no particular reason and goof around,” says Eshna, who has been practicing and teaching flow professionally for a decade.
From the time she posted her first hooping video on September 9, Eshna’s following has grown manifold, and she’s now at 134,000 followers and counting. “I didn’t expect to go frigging viral!” laughs Eshna, who is embracing her silly side by posting blooper videos. “I was always someone who put more of my sassy side out and hid the goofiness because it made me come across as a not-so-professional teacher. But I’m realizing that when people see that you’re allowed to be imperfect, it makes them want to pick up a hoop and try.”
Currently, the #SareeFlow tag has over 500 videos and artworks inspired by Eshna. Talking about the response, Eshna says:
The aspect of women empowering women has been incredible. I’m also hearing from men who express joy for watching something so innocent and pure, nothing creepy. It wasn’t a sexy video or comedy act that went viral; it was just a spontaneous video of me having fun with myself in a saree in my bedroom. When people write and tell me that it made them feel liberated or made them have a good laugh, I’m grateful for that!
The heart of #SareeFlow is to flaunt the desi in yourself and be more comfortable in what we wear. “You can wear absolutely anything to move around in! Wearing a saree comes with restrictions. But it’s also liberating, and you feel beautiful in it! The limitations made me experiment and explore with different moves and skyrocketed my curiosity streak!”
It’s interesting to note the demographic of hoopers in India, with people as young as five, up to 60 years old, learning from Eshna, who believes that anybody can hoop dance. “Once women grow older, they lose confidence in their body but don’t realize how much wisdom is stored in it.”
The flow culture may be still nascent in India, but it’s definitely growing, says an optimistic Eshna. She has witnessed the shift from a handful of jugglers, poi spinners, and fire dancers in Goa. to a growing scene around hooping, slacklining, and acrobatic yoga. Through #SareeFlow, Eshna is making hooping more accessible to newcomers.
“The saree is familiar to Indians, but hooping isn’t. So when you combine the two, suddenly hula-hooping starts feeling more familiar. My goal is that eventually, one doesn’t have to explain to another what hooping is, the same way as you don’t have to explain to someone what dancing is.”