It was in early 2009 when I heard my inner calling and decided to learn classical dance as it always intrigued me. I joined Allahabad’s reputed Prayag Sangeet Samiti to learn Bharat Natyam. I got enrolled in the basic course, starting with Praveshika- the first exam that one needs to clear to learn further.
The course started with learning adavus, or the basic hand and foot movements of Bharat Natyam. I was a quick learner and picked up the basics quite fast. I started enjoying every bit of it. I anxiously waited for the dance classes, which were held twice in a week.
My reverend guru, Dr Saroj Dhingra, is an exponent in fine arts and has learnt Bharat Natyam for over 20 years and did her research in the same. I was fortunate enough to have been taught the purest and most authentic form of dance from her. She has learnt the Kalakshetra style and passed on the same to me.
I can now proudly say that I am a trained dancer of the most beautiful and authentic styles of Bharat Natyam, which was started by renowned Bharat Natyam dancer, Mrs Rukmini Arundale almost 70 years ago.
I started picking up the advanced steps and my passion for dance only grew as time elapsed. I never felt tired of dancing and always looked forward to occasions where I could perform as an artist. Days, months and years passed and I knew my love for the art only grew deeper.
I gave my first stage performance in 2010, which was a dance- drama of the legendary, Mr Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s iconic poem, Madhushaala. I played the role of the sutradhaar or the narrator and its memories are vividly clear in my mind. The first stage performance always remains etched in the heart of a dancer and the same is true in my case as well.
After this, there was no looking back. I strived to learn more and more pieces of dance in Bharat Natyam. I learnt Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, Padam, Thillana, Natnam Adinaar, Javeli, Shiv Tandav, Ganesh stuti, Dashavatar, and more dances that comprise the crux of Bharat Natyam. I was a quick learner of the Nav Rasa, the basic nine expressions, which people use to express everyday emotions. They include Shringar, Veer, Karuna, Raudra, Vibhatsa, Hasya, Bhaya, Shanta and Adbhuta. I incorporated the same in my dances, as these emotions glorify the dance.
It was soon that a period of seven years passed and I successfully completed my Prabhakar (equivalent to bachelor’s degree) in Bharat Natyam in 2014. Along with that, I had also given over 40 performances in a number of cultural events across the city, including my University of Allahabad, Allahabad Museum, North Central Zone Cultural Centre, Prayag Sangeet Samiti among others.
By the blessings of Lord Natraj, I became more spiritually conscious after I learnt Bharat Natyam. Because it is an art of Tamil Nadu, I got to learn the various nuances linked with the state and its culture, but it also helped my spirituality to evolve. I gained a whole lot of knowledge of spirituality through dance, as I was taught about the ancient epics. I gave performances based on the mythological stories through Bharat Natyam. For example, Padam is a mime, where one enacts the roles of Lord Krishna and his mother Yashoda. We learnt about the instances of his life and portrayed the same through our dance. Likewise in Dashavatar and Ramayana, we were given detailed knowledge of the various avatars of Lord Vishnu and exhibited the same in our performance.
I live by the quote that the only dancer I should compare myself is the one I used to be. This is the force that drives me to do better every time I give a new performance.
Dance has given me much more than happiness. It has shaped my identity and helped me grow as a person. It made me realise and value the finer aspects of art in life and respect its various forms. As Indian arts date back to history, its values, tradition and importance need to be respected and preserved.
I grew closer to God and found dance as a great source of meditation. It soothed me and calmed my soul. I have always been keen to perform Bharat Natyam as it is something that comes to me from within. It is my inner self, my real self.
As a performer, I feel highly grateful to God who blessed me and chose me to become a dancer and carve my own path to find happiness and peace. I dance for my own self as my gratitude and offering to the almighty.
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