Updated: Jun 3, 2019
When I first went to my very first dance class, it was something fun to do. Like most kids as years passed I was distracted by the world outside. Modernism, films, fun, food, TV. This was back in the 80s in Madras, so even playing outside with my other friends was a distraction. My mother made me dance however, so I went, like I was doing my chores and that’s all it was. She even made me learn as much of a margam as I could possibly remember at the age of 8, just before left to Australia. I know how terrible I danced, but she went all out brought me clothes, jewellery and filmed the whole margam, so that I wouldn’t forget. My father shook his head when I danced. I still remember… but, my mother was proud of me. She had faith in me and her art.
Coming to Australia, one would think that she would leave me be. But no, every morning 6AM the woman woke me up, put the tapes on that she had recorded for me and made me dance. My cousin who was staying with us watched me and laughed and said, “Shantha anta you should give up you are wasting your time”. She didn’t give up.
She took me to dance class to my first guru in Perth Jayaluxmi Raman, then Bhavani Shivakumar. Dance became fun because that’s where I made my friends, these friends are still close to me and in my life. It wasn’t however until my uncle challenged me saying I can’t dance, that I actually took dance seriously. My mother utilised my anger and egged me on to show him that I could dance after all. She sparked a fire finally, I did my first performance, solo and tasted applause for the first time when I was 9 and loved it. Finally I thought I was good at something and I continued to dance out of the love of performing. I felt alive on stage. Like a part of me came to life that was never alive when I was off stage. I forgot everything, the lights hit my eyes and it was alive. Judging by the response, I thought I was a good dancer… It started to be part of my identity. My mother who organised Theatre shows made sure she kept that fire alive in me.
I practiced every day because it made me something. It became a part of me, slowly… without me realising.. I was beginning to fall in love with it. My mother kept taking me to India to learn more. When I was 17 I did my arangetram, I was blessed enough to learn under my gurus Chitra Muralidaran, Madurai R Muralidarn and Manimekalai and perform in Chidambaram. Again it was all my mother’s doing. I didn’t ask for this opportunity, It was given to me and perhaps I didn't value it until I danced in Chidambaram itself.
Arangetram was a battle for me, Waking up at 6 am, never being good enough for my teachers, having to do an aramandi when all I wanted to do was sleep and throughout practices I felt like I was dancing for someone else. That was the biggest moment of realisation for me, In order to dance with all my heart I had to promise myself that I will never let anyone come in-between my dance and me.. it was as if it were a person to me.. as if I were in a relationship with