As a child I was so inspired by the stories told to me by my grandmother Lois, that they have influenced my adult life. At 19 years of age I travelled to India as a tourist and spent time in Goa, Tamil Nadu and the beautiful state of Kerala. I loved the culture of Southern India and particularly their classical dance style of Bharata Natyam.
After my return I found Shrimati Pathmini Gunaseelan, a gifted teacher from Sri Lanka, who runs Narthana Kalalayam, a dance school in Waltham Forest, London. She saw the potential in me and realised how incredibly keen I was to learn.
Pathmini worked with me from scratch, going through the basic Adavus (steps), and she guided me through to my Arangetram (graduation). This ceremony at Lloyds Park Theatre London, consisted of a two and a half hour solo performance in front of dance experts, friends and family members. It was completely nerve-racking and I’d never do it again! I did make some minor mistakes, there’s so much you have to think about, but my Arangetram was the start of my dancing career and it will take a lifetime of dedication to master it.
Bharata Natyam is an incredibly demanding form of dance, in which the body traces precise angular patterns to complex musical rhythms. Indigenous to Tamil Nadu this 2000 year old classical style comes from the magnificent temples of Southern India, and was performed by temple devotees.
Today the style is appreciated throughout the world, and I have been fortunate enough to perform and teach this sacred dance for over a decade. A professional dancer requires not only tremendous physical skill and stamina, but the ability to express deep emotions and the ability to interpret philosophical and poetic text.
Increasingly now, I am in demand as a multi-cultural artist/performer and teacher. I have my own dance group ‘Naatya East’, with Western and Asian students, whose recent performances include concerts for Barnardo’s at Wembley Arena and The Royal Albert Hall. But my main emphasis is in developing my schools work, and building bridges between cultures. When I hold workshops, I want to show children that India is a fascinating country, with a rich and beautiful culture, so that next time they see an Asian person they will appreciate them and not just see a foreign face. I show girls how to wear a sari, and teach them about life in the sub-continent. I perform a simple dance drama, based on life in rural India. I teach the children how to stamp their feet, and use their fingers, beginning every session by teaching the children a namaskam (movement prayer), which is how every Indian dancer begins their training.
I love my job as a cultural dancer and consider it a privilege to teach and perform, and hopefully inspire children in the U.K through Bharata Natyam.
For more information www.indian-dance.co.uk