Dance as a way of life

first_imgThey say dance is the hidden language of the soul. Groomed in classical Tanjore dance, Sohini Roychowdhury combines the best of two worlds — a classical conservative training and a modern innovative outlook. Expressional dance being her forte, she gives greater importance to the aesthetics of dance and the clear interpretation of mythology. She shares her journey with Millennium Post, where she talks about her recent innovative forays into the realm of self-choreographed thematic dance dramas, which she performs with her troupe Sohinimoksha. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’How did classical dance happen to you?Born to sitar maestro Pandit Subroto Roychowdhury, breathing in notes of Ahir Bahirav, Jhinjhoti, Desh, Behag and Rageshri, dawn to dusk; classical music was, by default, an ingrained way of life. Bharatanatyam happened to me, like falling in love for the first time — it cannot be rationalised or explained easily, but can only be felt in the veins and stirs up a deep passion. When I saw Yamini Krishnamurthy on stage for the first time in my life, she created a fairy-tale that I wanted to be a part of. When she held the Krishna posture, I could almost hear the notes of the flute and that was the only language I wanted to speak. I was hooked for life. I started formal training from the tender age of seven, under Guru Thankamani Kutty, and later, under Guru Kalamandalam Venkitt, as far as mastering the structured form goes. Subsequent innovations and embellishments have been learnt and self-taught from Life. Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with NetflixWho has been your idol, and who ignited your passion for Dance?Yamini Krishnamurthy is my inspiration. She was past her prime when I first saw her dance but I was in love with the magic and poetry of her movement. I saw Birju Maharaj when well past his prime and overweight, but his ‘abhinaya’ left me spellbound. I saw this shy lovesick Radha on stage and forgot everything else. Last but not the least, Michael Jackson and his mesmerising stage presence with his special ability to leave an audience spellbound. How challenging is it to promote classical dance in a foreign land?Rather challenging, I would say, as one is constantly dealing with cultural racism, complete ignorance tinted liberally with snobbery, superficial Bollywood driven India Exotica and the rather fatal India ‘Idiotica’. Thankfully, we have managed to combat these monsters, to a very large extent, and also my student and audience base are international, which is not restricted to the expat Indian communities and that is primarily due to the fact that I have taken the time and made the effort, to transform the oldest form of Indian classical dance form with or without fusion, that is universally appealing. By integrating it in myriad ways with local rhythms and tunes, dances and movements, by extending its boundaries beyond the inherent rigidity of the craft, meshing it with Tchaikovsky, with Flamenco, splitting the core into an universal amalgamation of cultures and civilizations, whilst retaining the essence of the ancient form — Connecting Civilizations. That has been, and still continues to be, my mantra to rise beyond this challenge.How have international audiences warmed up to you?The response is emotional and overwhelming at all times. There is, amongst my Madrid audience, a girl of five, who always insists that her parents bring her to every performance of Sohinimoksha, and calls me ‘Maya’, the character played by me in one of our dance operas — ‘Maya’s Dream’. Yet another fan, a wheelchair bound 80-year old Spanish lady is a regular at all our Madrid shows, and is left teary-eyed at the end of each performance. There are, of course the usual inquisitive, wide-eyed first timers, whose closeted image of an archetypal elephants-peacocks-palaces-Bollywood India is at once shattered, re-built and expanded into new and magical horizons, and some who flock backstage to indulge in a quick chat with me and the other dancers, and of course for selfies. A Bulgarian film-maker, Denica Veselinova, travelled with me and my troupe to Kerala during our Prabasi Bharatiya Divas show, specifically to make a documentary on the trip and the performance —Bailando India.What is your opinion about pursuing dance as a profession in India? Do you think it should be promoted in schools, too?Like anywhere else in the world, deciding to be an artist, needs a lot of faith and passion but one needs to be a braveheart. You may be rejected 100 times, but each time you fall, you rise up with more conviction than ever. In India, deciding to be a professional classical dancer is certainly very difficult, far more than deciding to be a doctor, a CA or a banker. In those professions, there are certain inherent livelihood guarantees that come with the degree or the education however such is not the case in taking up dance as a career as there’s no certainty or guarantee of a secured livelihood, or future on the whole. Yet audience’s appreciation and the magic displayed on stage, often surpasses lifelong financial security. Moreover, it is the passion that carries the best of us through. As far as promotion in schools are concerned, dance and music must be essential parts of any school curriculum,  especially in a country like ours, which has such a rich tradition in both. To  promote sensitivity, kindness and creativity — essential skills are needed for a harmonious existence.Any advice or tips to upcoming artists?Work hard, have faith, focus and fire – the holy trinity and stick to your passion, come what may. There’s magic, that will last and bring happiness to all around you, ever after. Art is the expression of love and harmony, there is nothing beyond.Some memorable moments and achievements in her career Forming my troupe Sohinimoksha World Dance and Communications – 2006 Dancing for the premier of the multi-Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire at the request of its director, Danny Boyle – Feb 2009.For my troupe, Sohinimoksha, comprising of dancers from all over the Occidental world, to be invited to perform in front of the President of India at the Prabasi Bharatiya Divas in Kochi, Kerala, homeland to a million ace native Bharatanatyam dancers– January 2013. Winning the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman Award at the House of Lords, British Parliament, London – October 2013. Also when the Ambassador of India to Spain, Sunil Lal, walked into my Madrid studio andgreatly appreciated our Moksha style. This was the magic wand of faith for all my students, and for me, that led us through ever after, even when faced with the worst professional hurdles and detractors – October 2011.First Indian dancer to be invited to perform at Madrid´s famous street festival Nocheen Blanco, before a record audience of more than 5000 – our ‘foreign’ classical dance form luring audiences away from the Rock bands – Sept 2010.Presenting my choreographed dance opera Durga for the UAE´s ruling Al Makhtoum Family in Dubai at the Inner Voyage concert.Performance at the Press Conference to announce the first ever El Clasico Legends exhibition football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona in India – The Ritz, Madrid, June 2014.Winning the Priyadarshini Award for Outstanding Women Entrepreneur – by the Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs – May 2015last_img

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