CHENNAI: The practice took a pause again and with a frown the little girl said, varala (can’t get it) to which another responded vara vaikkanum (you will have to get it right). Six kids from the Urur Olcott Kuppam were practicing Bharatanatyam vigorously for the upcoming performance at the vizha. Their teacher, making them start again from the beginning, was a 16-year-old student, Shruthi Shankar.
City Express caught up with the teenager for a quick chat and her dedication blew our minds! “These kids never lose heart and confidence. They just smile through the frustration and keep going. They are getting so much better and if it hadn’t been for their passion and endless determination, I wouldn’t have been confident myself,” says Shruthi, beaming with pride.
The group began practising together every Sunday since April. Now as the fest draws near, sessions have multiplied with longer hours. They are now trying to perfect the coordination and the finesse of each step, but what strikes the eye is their energy.
Gathering around us, and everyone talking altogether, the kids, who were barely in their mid-teens, shared their thoughts. “We love dancing! Even if we end up doing something else for a living, we’ll never stop dancing,” they say in unison.
“To us, Bharatanatyam is something more than a dance form. We love the bavangal (emotions) we portray and there is something about the music that gets our feet to tap to the tune automatically every time we hear it. My father recorded a Bharatanatyam performance one day in his mobile. I would place that on a chair and try to copy and learn the new steps,” explains Sangeetha.
Another teenager, Varalakshmi, surprised us when she piped that she hated dancing initially. Why? “I just didn’t like it and I used to tease all the others in school. I would watch them perform through a window, and laugh at them. But one day, I don’t know what got into me, but I wanted to give it a try and I did, and I haven’t stopped dancing since. My parents want me to study nursing but I want to be a dancer! They are very upset,” she laughs.
The fiery passion burning inside them was palpable. They are looking forward to perform at the fest and all set to impress audiences. Shruthi, on the other hand, does not want to take up dancing as her career option and she had a good reason. “It is more than a hobby yes, but not a pastime and definitely not a career option. I want to dance for the joy of it, without any goal in mind, without the prospect of earning money through it. Dance is my emotional catharsis,” she smiles. Witness the perseverance and the talent of the slum kids at the Urur Olcott Vizha on February 26.
What to Expect at the Fest?
Feb 26: Paraiattam, Villupattu, Bharatanatyam, Contemporary Folk by Raghu Dixit, H N Bhaskar & Group
Feb 27: Nadhaswaram by Chennai Children’s Choir, Carnatic music by Vijay Siva & Group, Bharatanatyam and, classical, folk and gaana by Sean Roldan and friends