Dancing always fascinated me when I was young. Bharatnatyam in particular. I wanted to join classes. Like any middle class tambram family, my mom said 'it is an expensive art. We cannot afford it. Besides, you cannot dance after a certain age but you can sing at any age.' She put me into music classes. But dance still held its firm grip on me. We were members at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club and there would be at least a couple of dance programs every month. There was also the yearly dance festival that followed the music season in December. My mom would go to music concerts while I would be interested only in the dance programs. She wouldn't take me to many but she still was interested in watching the best performers during that time.
I would come back and mimic their steps. I would watch those 30 mins programs that would come on DD and would want to try out the abhinayas. In school and college, my friends would not take me for dance programs once they knew I have never performed before. My mom would be embarrassed to know my interest in dance and not showing such inclination towards music. I do love to sing, but I always wanted to dance.
After I got married and came to US, I would go to the local Tamil sangam programmes. I would see people perform but never thought much about it. Then college, work, kids happened and life moved on. 10 years later, I started volunteering at the Tamil school as an associate teacher. The kids performed during annual day celebration and I would help my daughter with her steps and costume. Couple of more years later, the adult volunteers decided to perform during Pongal celebration. Couple of mothers asked me if I would be interested to perform. I was pleasantly surprised that here is the opportunity I was waiting for my whole life. A chance to dance. I thought 'why not? Let me atleast try.' So showed up for the first practice and it was ok. The body was stiff, the grace was there in some movements but not in others. It was pure fun. Laughing and giggling, remembering the steps, deciding the costume, worried about wearing a saree and dancing, the whole experience made my heart lighter.
That performance was well received and I have performed every year at Tamil school after that. The girls I performed with took me under their wings and we became a tight knit unit. We ventured into performing at other programs too. One of them found out about a Bollywood dance class offered for adults and showed interest to join. I too went with her to see how it was. It is a fusion of workout and dance. We sweat a lot and laugh a lot too. Good workout and great rapport. Since the class is from 8-9pm, once a week, I am not worried about dinner or other activities. It has been three weeks and I enjoy every minute of it. My kids are excited to see me on stage too and have no complaints with me going for my own class.
I came to know recently that there are many adults who have started learning Bharatnatyam after coming here. Same story as mine, parents did not send them and now they do it because they wanted to. Some have completed arangetram. If only I had known this earlier, maybe I would have done that too. My daughter still tells me that if I can start now and I may complete it in 8-10 years. I don't have that kind of patience now.
My mom still not too happy with my dance ventures. She enquires if there are any such music classes and why I am not focusing more on singing. Dance is what makes my heart light, dance is what keeps my confidence high, dance is what took me out of my mental agony four years back, dance is what gave me my friends that I have now who have stood by me, dancing makes me forget myself. I may not be the best dancer, but dancing sure puts a huge smile on my face.
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