Sunday, April 7, 2013

A lost struggle (Part I)

I performed yesterday at the 'Centre Culturel Indien Tagore', a non-profit organization here run by a warm French lady. I got in touch with her about ten days ago and she said they are celebrating Holi on the 6th of April and then she got me in touch with a group of young-guns who were practicing Bollywood dances for the show. Now I know what I know, and I know I can't do 'bollywood' for the life of it. So I decided to put up a solo...and voila! I was 'booked' to perform. Luckily, I had packed my costume and makeup and music from India. The opportunity presented itself sooner than I thought!

I decided to perform the same five-minute piece I had presented at Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City in April 2010. A few minutes into practice, I realized how out of shape I am. I know a lot of dancers who practice their craft day in and day out, without having any performances on schedule. They make it look so effortless. And this is what it is. Forget the audience. This is about me and my dance. But I can tell what's going into that show! People have no idea what artists put themselves through to look effortless on stage. Sometimes, I am ashamed to even call myself a dancer, for I do not make an effort at all!

I grew up in a house where music and dance, among other things, flourished. There was a phase growing up when, if we were having guests over for dinner, I would pick the music to be played in accordance with the 'cuisine' that evening! And it was encouraged. Mum started learning Bharatanatyam as a young girl, and her fate was sealed when she moved to Bombay after her marriage in 1974 and Daddy got home a pamphlet of Nalanda College, offering BFA courses in Dance. She joined college all over again and was the oldest in her class.

Fast forward to an evening in the 1990s. My sister and I would join whichever class mum took in the basement of our home in Ahmedabad. But this particular evening, we were playing badminton when a class was going on. Soon we heard mum shout. "If you want to take dance seriously, you better attend classes regularly!" I think that brought down our evening sessions of badminton by two.

By the time we finished school, both of us had a diploma in classical dance and music. And my sister was on her way to Bombay to study dance at Nalanda. For mum, just making me appear for those yearly certificate exams was a nightmare. I wouldn't want to wear a pair of bangles, no Bindi, won't smile, hate this! That was routine. I was literally forced to take part in a state level competition....(Guess who the first place got awarded to? If you are on my side, you will not pay this game!) But all this resistance did not stop her. On my part, I made sure to let her know I was doing a huge favour every time I got on stage.

For as long as I can remember, I used to tell her I should be her last option. If and only if she felt short of a dancer for her ballets should she pick me. Of course one is always falling short of 'good' dancers! Around the time my sister and I were in college, Rasadhwani, by now a renowned institute with unconventional methods of teaching (no factory-produced dancers), was invited to perform at various soirees in Ahmedabad.

(Past II is here.)

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