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Lessons Learnt On Stage

About Rohini Ananth

Rohini is a Tam Bram ... born to dance. She has been performing and teaching Bharathanatyam since time immemorial. She has also been singing, emceeing, Acting, travelling, writing and reading extensively on professional platforms. She is the winner of state award for contributing to dance in a foreign land. A graduate in Arts with English Major, Rohini is currently working in an HR role. Associated with many social activities, she loves to have new friends and travel to new places. She believes in keeping life simple and out of a back pack.

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I woke up startled from my mid-morning nap to loud noises in the house. Eavesdropping, I hear my mother’s voice. “Amma, gone are the days when girls were stopped from learning dance. It’s such a beautiful art! And no matter what, I will enrol Chitra for dance classes”. My grand mom roared, “Let’s see how you do. No one in our family has ever learnt dance. She is a good singer. Anyway in a few years, she will be married and gone. Then what’s the use of dance? If she learns some songs, she can sing lullabies to her children, or sing at festive occasions”.

At these words mummy stomped out of the living room to attend to her daily duties. A week passed and mummy’s moun vrath (silence) didn’t cease. “Look son. Your wife doesn’t listen to me.  Let her do what she wants’ I heard my grand mom tell my dad. Thus, I was enrolled into a dance class with mummy winning over her intensions.

I took to dancing, as, fish takes to water. I loved everything associated with it. The music, the moves, the make-up, the jewellery, the attention and applause. What began as a hobby, slowly started becoming an integral and inseparable part of my life. I had to balance both my studies and my dancing on par. There are so many things I learnt as a dancer in all these years.

There was meager demand for soloists and hence group dances were sought after by the public. Learning and dancing in groups taught me to underplay alongside weak dancers and offer my best with strong dancers. To strike a balance in life, this lesson learnt on stage, was very beneficial for me in life. Since there was no facility of recording the song, or video tape the dances, I was forced to give my hundred percent during learning, and, thereafter practice a zillion times to get it right. Mummy always taught me to give my best in whatever I do. The dedication came naturally.

I don’t know if everyone faces this issue, or was it only me? I could manage with the steps in any dance, push myself to do it even when my knees hurt, but just couldn’t manage to bring out the expressions on my face. Was I shy? Less confident??? I didn’t understand. In every class, my teacher would be unhappy with me and made me stand in the last row where she could hardly see me. The next class I would counsel myself to overcome this hurdle. And again, it was the same story.

One day, my friend who had to do a lead role fell sick on the day of the show, and, knowing that I was a quick learner , my teacher called me to do that role. She was very disappointed that I had to do this role. I knew that this was a golden opportunity that God created for me. I shed all my inhibitions and brought out my best on stage. It was indeed a hit. Even my mom was surprised at my performance. My teacher told me that henceforth, in all her shows, I would play the lead. I was overwhelmed. This was a proof to me that hard work never fails, and, till today, I adapt it in my life, not giving up till I succeed.

Ever since that show, I was the lead in various acts not only in my group, but other groups as well. Slowly I started travelling for performances. The memory of one incident is strong in my mind. We were all gathered at a medical college in Davangere for a performance of Ramayana Dance Drama. I did not play any lead roles in this production. I was getting ready for my performance, when my dance director walked up to me and told me “Chitra, you need to play Kaikeyi today”.

“But sir… I haven’t seen that act before. How can I manage’? I asked him.

He said “We have an hour for the performance to begin and that’s a lot of time for you”.

I was very nervous and carefully learnt the new act. As we were all in the green room giggling at how I coped with the sudden changes, my director walked in and said “Hey… there is someone waiting to see you”.

I went out and there were a bunch of students waiting to see me. They hugged me and said that they enjoyed my act in particular. I said “I am sorry. I didn’t play Sita. Let me call my friend who played that role”. It was then that they explained, “No..no… we know that you played Kaikeyi. And we have never seen anyone play that role with so much dignity so far”.

I had tears in my eyes and my dance director had the look, “I told you that I trust you”.

Life throws unexpected opportunities at you and for me this was one of them. I realised from then, the word NO and IMPOSSIBLE should be erased from my dictionary.

My attraction towards dance started growing beyond control and, as this took the primary seat in my life, studies took a back seat. I had done miserably and scored low in my finals. My dad was very upset and had given me a sound shouting. Since I lived in a joint family, we kids, were like the bell of a temple… anyone could ring it. After my dad and mom, my grandparents, uncles and aunts, older cousins, and even the maid had something or the other to reprimand me. I cried a lot.

I slept the entire afternoon. I woke up morose and useless. I had a big event that day when I played my dream character, Rukmini. I couldn’t let my bad day affect my performance, and in turn, affect the entire play. I chose to forget the frustrations of the morning and go on stage. It was a hit performance.

All of us go through highs and lows in our lives. But when you come on stage, your actual emotions can’t take over your character depiction. Hence, I had to forget the emotion and put in my best performance. This taught me to handle situations in a calm way and I understood that time heals everything.

Dance has just not taught me to be a performer and earn laurels, but it has made me what I am today. Adding to George R.R. Martin’s words, “I have lived a thousand lives and I’ve loved a thousand loves. I’ve walked on distant worlds and seen the end of time.” Because I DANCE.

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