Mention the word dance and 14-year-old Lekshmi easily breaks into an animated chat. She speaks about her early childhood, how she got initiated into the world of dance, her daily routine of rushing to dance classes post school hours and juggling four different classical dance forms. But what makes the young danseuse different is the fact that she has been trained in Russia. The daughter of a Moscow-based businessman, she started learning dance at the age of 6 from Russian teachers who had their training from reputed Indian dance schools.
Lekshmi Reghunath, who was brought up in Moscow, as her parents are settled there for more than two decades, says Indian dance forms, especially classical dances, are very popular in Russia.
“I have been learning dance for the past eight years. There are a lot of Russian students who take Indian classical dance lessons be it bharatanatyam or kuchipudi. Russia is a place where all cultures and art forms are respected and welcomed. Indian dances are extensively promoted there you will find teachers for all dance forms except kathakali and mohiniyattam,” she says.
Lekshmi says all her Russian teachers are trained at prestigious institutions like Kalakshetra or Kuchipudi Art Academy.
“They follow the traditional Indian system of training and are very proficient.” Lekshmi, a Class 9 student at the Embassy of India School, Moscow, continues her dance classes even during holidays.
When she visits Kerala once in every six months she devotes most of her time to dance, training with teachers here. “There is not much difference in the teaching style. The only thing I have noticed so far is that the teachers here give more importance to ‘abhinaya’ whereas Russian teachers focus on the technique.”
Lekshmi’s her first guru was Natalia Obalenskaya who trained her in bharatanatyam. She is learning kuchipudi from Irina Strahavenko while Ekaterina Sharma and Guru Raghav Raj Bhatt give her lessons in kathak. “Every day
I attend dance classes after school. I also participate in the classical dance workshop held in Moscow every year,” she says.
Ask Lekshmi if she was never interested in the renowned Russian ballet, and she says, “I like ballet and often watch it. But when it comes to learning and performing I always prefer Indian classical dances.”
She says it was her mother who encouraged her to take dance lessons. “My mother loves the art form. She holds a doctorate in biotechnology, but dance has always been her passion. Though she used to dance in her school days, she had to leave it behind. So she wanted me to be a dancer,” she says.
Lekshmi, who has performed at a spate of stages, says she was overwhelmed when she got an opportunity to share the stage with Kalkshetra P T Narendran.
“I was the youngest dancer in the whole group and I will always cherish the memory of that performance,” she says.
The danseuse who recently visited Kerala performed kuchipudi at Vyloppilli Samskriti Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram.