Asian Music and Dance

Apoorva Jayaraman

Dance awardee Apoorva Jayaraman tells Sanjeevini Dutta that she wishes to pursue dance at this juncture in her life, as it’s the activity that gives her the most fulfilment.

Apoorva Jayaraman was awarded the Nritya Ratna (The Jewel of Dance), at Dance-India, promoted by Milapfest at Capstone Theatre on 31 July 2013. This is a new scheme to talent-spot and accelerate the careers of aspiring musicians and dancers. 

The opportunity to dance in front of such an august audience, studded with the senior-most gurus, (her own teacher Priyadarshini Govind, Kumudini Lakhia, Leela Samson and Sujata Mohapatra, amongst others), and receive feedback has been hugely rewarding. She says: “Additionally knowing that it is a great stepping-stone and I am not completely on my own as I venture into this career is reassuring.”

I am speaking to Apoorva on skype from her Cambridge flat where she is putting finishing touches to a Ph.D project in astrophysics. She moved to Cambridge on completion of her Masters in Oxford, following a scholarship from the University which brought her to the UK. Her subject is the formation of the Milky Way. When I ask her whether she sees any linkages between the patterns of matter in space and the spatial and rhythmic patterns of dance, she brushes aside such naïve observations. However, she points out that the study of science has made her free-thinking and questioning, a value also passed on to her by her mother, which she deploys in her dance and in everyday life.

I pose Apoorva a question that she must have been asked many times before: does she see the possibility of becoming a full -time dancer? Apoorva replies “But at this juncture, I am just going ahead to do that which gives me the greatest sense of fulfilment, and I don’t really contemplate much about the practicalities of doing it full-time.”

 This kind of clarity is not new for the young dancer. Aged 15, she convinced her parents to send her from the family home in Bangalore to Chennai, where she would have access to classes with Kalanidhi Maami (the living legend of abhinaya). Considering that Apoorva would be attending a day school and that the only accommodation available was at a hostel for working women, it was an extraordinary step for a schoolgirl.

While attending classes with Kalanidhi Narayanan, Apoorva came under the guidance of Priyadarshini Govind, who is her greatest influence in dance. Maami was planning a trip abroad, so asked Apoorva to take lessons in her absence with the senior dancer. On her return, she asked her young pupil whether she had enjoyed classes with Govind. For the next year and a half, Apoorva was alternating between both teachers. However, there is one more teacher whose name needs extolling.

Bharatanatyam teacher Ratna Supriya Sridharan used to come to do ‘fun dance’ sessions at Apoorva’s pre-school, telling stories with mudras. That was where Apoorva’s love of dance was born. She would pester the teacher to attend dance class, but was turned away for being ‘too young’. Srimati Sridharan finally relented and aged 5, Apoorva’s formal training began. “I received strong fundamentals from my first teacher. She was firm and you did not negotiate with her.”

Apoorva has learnt from the best of teachers and has had time over an extended period to hone her art. She is blessed with a fine brain, a slim build and attractive features. So it now remains to see what she can give back to the dance world and the larger public who do not yet know that they need and love dance. When I ask her what her ambition in dance is, she offers a characteristically muted response. Instead of projecting herself as an international star, she modestly confesses that her goal is to reach a place in her performance where she can efface herself and become the dance. “I want to go to that place”. I am left in stunned silence.



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