Destiny Beckoned Peruvian to Learn Bharatnatyam

She comes from a country where an art form like Bharatnatyam was unheard of until about two decades ago. Today, Peru-based Ananga Manjari Malatesta Gonzalez and her mother Merlinda have popularised the dance form in Peru, Argentina and Chile.

Ahead of her maiden performance at Natya Utsav organised by Natyanjali Trust in the city, Ananga discusses her early inspiration and her 18-year journey as a dancer.

“It was my parents’ spiritual quest that brought me close to performing arts. They were followers of the ISKCON movement and wanted me to connect to dance in a spiritual way,” she says. A natural choice would have been Kathak or Odissi, considering the origin of the ISKCON movement, but Ananga believes she was ordained to get initiated into Bharatnatyam, which she began learning when she was just four.

Trained by a neighbour, who taught her some adavus (basic steps), her mother began learning the dance form along with her. However, since they couldn’t find a local teacher or an expert, Merlinda began researching extensively, learning from videos of popular dancers and finding translations for Tamil and Sanskrit compositions. “I remember seeing videos of Priyadarsini Govind and was amazing. For the language, we took the help for Sanskrit translation from people who knew the language in Peru. For the Tamil text, we had to contact people in India,” recalls Ananga.

Eventually Merlinda opened a dance school back home and today, her students are successful teachers in South America. The 22-year-old trains students in the school, while she continues to learn.

Three years ago, Ananga and her mother came across Malaysia-based dancer and choreographer, Shankar Kandasamy who later conducted an intensive, five-week training session for Ananga in Peru. “It was seven hours of rigorous practice every day for more than a month,” she says. Shankar, who belongs to the hybrid bani that combines Dhandayuthapani Pillai and Kalakshetra style, trained her in the clean lines that form the core of the bani.

Ananga, who is also a linguist adept at French, Italian, Mandarin and English, is a trained ballerina and contemporary dancer, and a pianist. “Maybe, that’s why the barriers of music genres and languages, don’t deter my interest in the dance form,” she adds.

While she pursues a degree in business administration, Ananga wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “When we started, Indian dance meant Bollywood style, but now that has changed. I want to continue spreading the popularity,” she says.

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The New Indian Express