20 March 2007

Dance like no one’s watching

I love dancing.

And my tryst with dance started when I was 5, and it started, with my Mom. I don’t think my Mom even realized it was something that I would like doing. She was giving me a first of many chances to find out what I was really good at. And as it turned out, I loved dancing.

Mom decided that since Altoid was a budding singer (to which I disagreed heartily), the only logical thing to do was to train Chiclet to dance. I often wondered whether it was a part of Amma’s well sketched solution to a future economic crisis.

So one un-fine day, Amma decided that I had gorged enough gulaab jamoons (the word is non-existent in this hateful dictionary) and bhajjis and it was time to put her 5th point on the To-do list to action. So little Chiclet was yanked from her cradle (now, that’s another story .Until I was about 8 , I could fit into my cradle, and no ,no, not the ones that you see around these days , this was a mid sized one that could fit a 3-foot person).

My newly appointed dance Guru Mrs.UK gave Amma’s Somalian evacuee frame a curious glance as I crouched behind Amma and watched GUK’s(Guru UK) slaves dance to her tunes.

“Where is the student?”

“She’s hiding behind me like an ass” said Amma victoriously, to which I promptly chewed a bit off Amma’s Benares saree, take that, and that I thought.

“Come here, little girl” said GUK with surprisingly kind eyes, and the little girl went.

That day, I learnt the first namaskaaram of the very many that were to follow. The commencement of any dance starts with the namaskaaram , first to the Lord above, then the Guru(with the hands positioned in front of the heart) and then to the audience), yes, in that order.

In the days that followed I became GUK’s pet student, partly because I had a photographic memory when it came to remembering new steps (You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that I could remember everything I saw, even just once) and secondly, I discovered something about myself hitherto unknown - that I could co-ordinate my hands and feet.

Now, there exists a step in BN called the “Rangakramana” which is basically a technique to cover a lot of stage, it involves movement, arc-like from one side of the stage to the other. While the teenagers sashayed gracefully, Chiclet assumed it was a running race and fled from one corner to the other, I rather think she could’ve mistaken the step for a game of wall-touch. It was during these times that Sudha Chandran’s “Mayuri” was aired on DD. I vividly remember sitting on the cardboard-box-converted chair, swinging my legs and telling Amma which of the dance steps I already knew, which of them Sudha unfortunately didn’t do too well, while Amma shelled peas for lunch.

I had by then progressed to the “Thillana”. Thillana is the dancer’s first brush with “Abhinaya” or expression.Thillana comprises of 3 stages of jathi (sequence of steps, the sequence is carefully designed so as to make the jathi on the whole very pleasing to the eye) followed by a stanza in praise of the Lord, devotion is the first emotion that you are taught.

GUK decided that it was time I was introduced to the stage and it was then that I first felt it, my love for the spot light! It’s a wonderful feeling, an experience that is never an “experience”, you always are nervous before the curtains are drawn, you always think you’re going to mess up, and then, the lights come shining above you, you forget the countless times you practiced, the emotions that you wanted to convey in a zillion other ways, the pain, and the exhaustion. You dance – for yourself, for the joy of being able to, right there, right then.

My father by then got a transfer to Bangalore and GUK had to wish her pille (little one in Kannada) adieu.

There are some things I can never forget about Mangalore-The LIG housing colony, my best friend, Suramya and the lady who taught me my first step- my Guru.

After coming to Bangalore, I conveniently forgot all about BN, I relapsed into the regime that my new school demanded. I needed to unlearn the Mangalore Kannada accent, I had to learn cycling, I needed to explore the new compound, dig my hands into a new garden, fight with my old foe, Altoid –the list was never-ending. And then, Amma found me.
“Chiclet, wear your salwar suit, I’ve found a new BN guru”

The new BN guru was a Mrs. N, GN.GN asked me to demonstrate whatever I’d learnt with GUK. Now, it seemed like eons since I last danced, and I’d forgotten most of the movements. While I contorted my face trying to remember GUK’s face while she taught me the step , I found the wooden stick(it is used by the gurus to tap on the floor to give you the rhythm) being hurled at me and an angry GN glaring down at me asking me if I had plans of finishing at all. A grim Amma and a scared Chiclet started walking homewards never to go back to GN.

Two years later , Amma found out about Guru R from her student. Chiclet got into her salwar suit (the same one, her rate of growth increased at the alarming rate of of 10-9 cms per year).

GR’s house was very close to ours , and amma coached me on the way. “Sit in aramandi until your knees touch the ground , I would rather you ripped your thighs than have GR complain about your posture , do you hear me?” “ Yes , Amma” “Will you treat to masala buns on the way back ?”

GR is the kind of Guru that you always want to please. One look at you , and she would know when you weren’t in the mood and when you actually got into the skin of the character. I must add, she is one of the most talented and the most creative dancer/Guru that I have ever seen. I had a strange blow hot blow cold bond with this Guru, mainly because she was a creative and a moody artiste ,and I, was plain moody :) .

I haven’t changed gurus since GR.

I’ve done worse.

Its been a while since I last danced, 4 years to be precise, rather like an old friend you lost touch with. Or rather, you are scared to get in touch with, for the fear of finding that they’re just not the same.

I am confident that I will someday, when I feel I can, for dance is one of my very old friends, one of a few that I have been completely true to.

Work like you don't need the money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching…


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