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The Awkward Dancer

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

It's nearing the end of another year and COVID for me has been a time of pure self reflection.. the lessons I've learnt are immense.. especially about Sringaram..

I don't claim to know how far the rabbit hole of Sringaram really is.. but here I am at this point.. and I think I get it.. Let me share my thoughts.

All Indian Classical dancers are told or know that Sringaram is the essence of the art form.. but how many of us are taught this..? I know I actually wasn't.. it's been a massive 2 year journey of trying to consciously understand the whole concept by myself. Yet I truly from the bottom of my heart believe that this should be the first lesson in any dance class.

We as dancers go up on stage in front of an audience and allow the art to move us and allow the audience to see us bare.. raw emotion and all.. at least that is what I believe a true artist will do.. I had mentioned this before in one of my blogs, that Monica didi used to say "show me the dancer and I'll tell you who they are" this is so true for me because we are all up there displaying ourselves and being vulnerable. Some "put on a show" of who they are and there are others who show their heart.. regardless there will be a moment at least of honesty when a dancer is on stage and there we will see the real person performing..

As artists, my understanding is, that you have to take your audience on a journey with you while you perform.. how deep and honest and touching that journey is, is completely up to the dancer.

But how is a dancer able to take anyone on their journey if they can not open up on stage? and how can you open up on stage if you do not love yourself enough to show yourself... ?

To reach this "openess" has been my quest as a dancer. It has not been an easy path..

The story begins with me a feeling fat, unshapely, dark and in my eyes at the time ugly child.The big brown girl.. these thoughts came to me as a child growing up in the 90s in Perth, Western Australia.. which at that point did not embrace diversity or acknowledge that people looked different.. the blonde haired blue eyed skinny white woman was what was beautiful and how did someone like me even stand a chance?

There I was a big brown girl, who didn't understand the accents of people because I had newly arrived from India, and the only brown girl in my entire year not knowing what I should look and act like.

All I could do was wish to be someone else. I could not see the beauty in me.

Stage and dance somehow, became my escape and a space where I felt comfortable in, I was able to be open. But I still recall how much I used to put myself through to try to make sure I fit into the dance costume, that I looked ok.. No matter how I tried, I did not feel beautiful.. there was always something wrong, I was too fat, not pretty enough, features not sharp enough.. just not enough.. however as people appreciated my dances in my local community, the stage became a space of comfort..

This was ok until dancing became a serious venture and then I was tested from the inside out. When I was compared to others, pushed around, ridiculed and even called ugly to my face just before I went on stage.. I believed every single comment, because deep down, I had not healed.. Every time i went on stage I believed I was that big brown girl who just wasn't talented enough.. this made me handicapped to set foot on stage after a while. It has taken me at least 15 years to regain the confidence to get back on stage, to even dare to perform a full margam. In this time, I've created Shastram, I've worked with fantastic artists, I've tried to understand the essence of dance, but I have to say... all this journey was also subconsciously to fill up that void of confidence, that lack of sringaram that I personally possessed.

Perhaps if I had just had that confidence, I would have just got up and danced... but its been a journey, a wonderful one none the less.. but one of healing.. and the toughest part has been to understand sringaram...

Over the past 2 years I have been blogging about this a lot.. I began with putting on weight, because I was someone who starved myself, thinking that I was only beautiful if I weighed a certain weight or looked a certain way.. I began forgiving myself for a lot of things, I began to accept a lot of things and even forgive others.. I also began to take care of myself, mind body and soul. Finally, I decided to try to see the beauty in me. I began with looking at my own face in a new light, and accepted my present self.. that was the first step and that was hard enough

but the problem was not fixed.. what I really needed to do was accept the part that even I had rejected and tried to hide.. The big brown girl.. she was the one who showed up whenever I felt my most vulnerable..and that made me lose my voice... but doing that has been the toughest task..

It is amazing how deep this wound was, because no matter what I looked like, I could not see the beauty in me. growing up my reflection to me was nothing but flawed. At one point I didn't think I deserved to dress properly or deserved good clothes, I didn't think I deserved to speak or have a voice, I didn't think I deserved appreciation.. i didn't think I deserved love.. and no matter what I created it was never enough... there was a void that could never be filled.

However, when you seek something I believe that the universe brings us the lessons we need and the people whom we are supposed learn it from. And luckily one such encounter has triggered me to embrace that big brown girl in me.. for her innocence, enthusiasm, kindness and especially strength, when it seemed like the whole world had rejected and cornered her.. she still stood up and kept going... Now I'm proud to say that I cherish and look up to that part of me. I am also strong enough to admit that all of this happened to me and my life has not been a smooth ride.

For me finding my sringaram has been a spiritual journey and in a sense a fairy tale of self discovery and love

going forward I actually hope to practice it and display this in my dance.

My final note is to all the dance teachers out there.. more often than not, I see teachers being strict which is fine.. but in that process, try not to wound the student's confidence. True Self love in performance is just as important as technique and love for the dance form itself. It should all be focused upon equally..

Try to avoid making your students compete against eachother or even yourself, instead cultivate that beauty within them that allows them to grow to be the dancer they truly are and most importantly give them confidence and tell them that they have it in them to face the journey ahead.

Try not to break your dancers to hate themselves to perfection, rather encourage them to love themselves to be their own unique artist.

Something comes to mind at this moment... Rama miss... when she told me to look at my own hand and admire it.. She said, that is your hand you have to make it beautiful.. your body you have to carry it beautifully. There is a certain pride you need to have to do this and I believe every dancer/performing artist should have this.

This blog has been a very important document for my journey and I thank anyone who has read it. I hope it has added some value and I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Lots of Love and warm wishes

Ghirija Jayarraj

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