One of Pulse’s Face to Face participants, bharatanatyam dancer Jayashree Sundaresan, will fufil an ambition by performing in Chennai and Mumbai this month. We took the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing off and on for about eighteen years now.
Have you always been a student of Usha Raghavan?
I started when I was 5 years old under Guru Gopinath Nair of Mumbai. I have been with Ushaji for the last seven years.
Where does dance fit into your life?
This most enthralling classical form of dance allows me to fulfil my creative abilities. I love performing to an audience. I feel I am transported to another world once the music is playing and I am on stage, something only other performers can relate to. It is something I do purely for myself. What started off as a hobby is taking up more and more of my time now.
What do you feel has been the highlight of your dancing life so far?
My arangetram performance in 2010 in front of an audience of 500 is definitely the highlight of my dancing life so far. Getting back into classical dancing after a gap is never easy and I feel I have put everything into it and feel very lucky and privileged to have got this opportunity to get back into a field I feel so passionately about. I also feel dancers are like good wine, they get better with age.
What have you found to be the biggest challenge in pursuing dance?
The physical and financial aspects are the most challenging. It has made me look into every aspect of my life; diet, exercise, balancing family life and dancing and of course funding. Getting audiences interested in pure classical dance, especially outside the South Asian community, is a challenge.
What would you say to a young person wanting to learn dance?
You have to commit to it for a long time before you start getting anything back from it. You have to be extremely passionate about it and believe in what you stand for.
How would you feel if your daughter wanted to be a professional dancer?
I would be over the moon but I think she knows the pitfalls and that she has to have another means of income to fund the dancing. It’s an expensive art form.
What do the Chennai and Mumbai performances mean to you? Why is it important that you dance there?
Growing up as a child, I used to watch the stalwarts of bharatanatyam such as Dr Padma Subramanyam, Chitra Visweswaran, Mrinalini Sarabhai and Mallika Sarabhai, and Alarmel Valli perform in Chennai and Mumbai. I guess the seeds were sown very early on and to be able to go back and perform in front of a discerning audience is always a challenge and a thrill. I am terribly excited.
What is your hope for the future?
I’d like to get into more of the creative aspects of the art form – learning the complexities of choreographing pieces, learning to play the nattuvangam and learning more about Indian philosophy and about the dance form itself (mainly the abhinaya aspects), in the form of some professional qualification; and also to begin to teach it to the next generation.
16 December 2013
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore, Chennai
18 December 2013 Swatantryaveer Savarkar Auditorium, Shivaji Park, Dadar West, Mumbai