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Teaching bharatanatyam to students in Switzerland

Staff Reporter

`We conduct annual dance competitions'



Mangala Vasanthakumar. — Photo: T. Singaravelou

PONDICHERRY: Mangala Vasanthakumar, a dancer from Switzerland, is in Pondicherry for a couple of weeks to learn a few more song sequences from Guru Kalaimamani Rajamanickam of Sangeetha Sanlangai Natyalaya.

"I wanted to learn more about choreography from him. Though I have been learning the art since the age of five, I had a break in the middle when my mother passed away. But again I took up learning bharatanatyam and did my three-year diploma. When I went to Switzerland to get married to Vasanthakumar I didn't have the proper setting for dance. When my son went to school, other students parents were interested in teaching their children dance and that's how I started a dance school, which presently has 60 students."

Learning bharatanatyam is also a way of keeping in touch with their language - Tamil for these people who are far from their homeland and study Dutch in schools. The songs that they dance to are almost always in Tamil. Only when they learn the theory the students learn the slokas in Sanskrit. "The students speak a bit of Tamil in their homes only. So I explain the meaning of the songs to the students in Dutch and also tell them the stories behind the songs," explains Mrs Vasanthakumar.

"We have a four-day Ezhuchi Vizha in which we have Bharatanatyam competitions and also performances of Ezhuchi Natyam, which is a mix of several forms of dance", she says. They have annual competitions called Natya Mayil and students of all dance schools participate in it. "Because of this competition, there is a lot of interest among the youngsters to learn bharatanatyam."

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