Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dance and me

Recently I was fortunate enough to witness one of the best dance ballets in Kuchipudi that I have ever seen. I am not saying this because I am biased toward the director who by the way is my very own dance teacher Padma Sonti but I am saying this because the entire composition was brilliant. The music, costumes, dancers and of course the choreography was excellent.

Padma had worked really hard on getting the ballet written up, designing the costumes and jewellery, props etc. She had a lot of help from her new found partners in dance, the brothers Raghava and Venkat from Kuchipudi, India but here I will be biased and say that she worked very hard and pushed everybody to get things in order and on time for the ballet. To top it all, she kept a cool head the entire time. She really was the driving force who brought everything together and I admire that quality in her.

I was disappointed that I had to be in the sidelines this time but the energy of the entire thing still caught up with me and I had fun just watching and helping out with the peripheral things. I didn’t dance but went to rehearsals to help with lighting for the show. Even being in the sidelines energized me. In my 6th month of pregnancy, I get tired very easily but it was the sheer magic of the music and the energy of dance that I didn’t feel tired even after being there for 5 hours two days in a row. I did get a little stressed on the actual day of the show because the lighting didn’t go as planned but the program was so good that it was all worth it. It made me start to think about what it is about dance and music that energizes me so much.

Me and dance go back a long way. The first time I danced on stage was when I was in the first grade. I don’t really remember what the song was but it was about stars and the moon and even though I say so myself, I was the prettiest star on the stage J The next thing I remember is being on a play in the enactment of the story of the lion and the rabbit from Aesop’s fables also in the first grade at the same school. Here I really was the center of attention, you see I played the part of the Rabbit J I don’t know if I liked carrots before that day but ever since then I have loved carrots.

As a child I learnt Kathak and performed with my teacher’s troupe at a variety of venues in Delhi like the India international center, AP Bhavan, school functions etc. Me and my sisters enjoyed dancing so much, we went out of our way to attend classes and go for programs. Even after I discontinued taking formal lessons in kathak, I continued to do folk and ‘filmy’ dances at community functions and in school. We had a lot of fun choreographing and presenting dance numbers at all of those places.

When I was dancing as part of my teacher’s troupe in Delhi, I enjoyed the practices, the extra classes, giggling at the back of he room with friends, getting mad about the teacher getting mad at us for giggling and then the final day when we would have our hair done at home by mom and go to a common place to get dressed and get our make up for the stage. I never remember feeling scared to get on stage or even being worried that I would forget (until recently at least). The entire experience gave me a high that no intoxicants in the world can match J

When doing our own little ‘programs’ with friends, I loved the anticipation, practicing, getting together with friends and ‘choreographing’ dances, the chaos on the day of the program and finally the relief that it was all over (until next time). The tempers running high during practice, the wounded and mended egos, and promises to self never to get involved again (only to forget everything the moment the program was over). It all makes for a heady mix which I for one enjoyed immensely.

When I left college, I thought I had done my last dance on stage but boy was I wrong. When Kishen met me 6 months later, he mentioned that one of things I could do in the US was go to dance classes. I was excited at the prospect but in my ‘box’ of post marriage life, learning to dance just didn’t fit. Well, I came here in 2000 march and less than a year later, I was learning Kuchipudi with Padma.

I never thought I would ever learn or dance on stage again but thanks to Kishen and a dear friend who has more enthusiasm in life than anybody I have seen so far, I started learning dance. And here I am 9 years later, still learning. I took a break for a year when Vivek was born and it was a little difficult to get back to the routine after that but I stuck with it and today I can’t imagine life without Kuchipudi. Now I am waiting for my second kid to get here so I can get back into the fray. I was so used to dance being part of my routine that even though I couldn’t dance this time around, I helped out with the preparations and some stage management.

It was with Padma that I got involved with charities related to promotion of art. The first one being Padma’s own MUDRA. The second one is Venkat’s (who incidentally I met through Padma) Kuchipudi Bhagavatha Melam. I believe if there is anything I can do to help promote the art, it is more than I could have hoped to do in a lifetime.

People have asked me how I expect to be able to dance after the second kid and I just say that I am crazy enough to figure out a way. I am surrounded by my crazy group of friends at dance class who also have kids and are still mental enough to come to class every week and even do programs. They are my inspiration and motivation so I hope to go on. There have also been people who have indicated that I am neglecting my duties as a mother and wife by spending time for my classes but I don’t really care about these people. In fact I have something special to say to them that I cannot post on my blog but you get the picture. It is my life and if dancing makes me happy, I will do it regardless of what people think (good or bad).