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Bharatanatyam: a connection to my inner self
- Sushupta Gouri Srinidhi, Colorado

February 12, 2007

(Sushupta Gouri Srinidhi won the Third Prize of 25$ in the Dance Essay Competition conducted by Cultural Centre of India, OH, on the topic "Why is being a dancer important to me.")

I stand in the hot South Indian sun examining the carved details of dancers on the side of the Belur temple. My fingers outline the figures slowly. Some are faded, weathered by the centuries they have stood; yet, their positions are still unmistakably firm, and graceful. Praises of God; stories of eternal love, peace, and devotion are all caught in stone, by figures in mid-dance. While I stand there in awe, I cannot help but think, 'This is Bharatanatyam.' A dance that has lived for centuries yet moves in fast, rhythmic moments. A dance that can bring beads of perspiration in an instant, and devotion in seconds.

Bharatanatyam, to me, is a connection to my inner self. Although millions of people in India perform Bharatanatyam, each dancer has some individual emotion and association for the dance. One link it provides me is to my religion. I learn stories of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses through dancing to my own interpretative sentiment of a song. However, it is more than just learning the stories. Demonstrating the stories captivates your audience as well as yourself, till you become a part of the story that you are enacting. It is not just another account of a sage praying; dance allows you to become the sage worshipping God. Dance connects me deeper to Hinduism by letting me feel it in my heart.

Seeing the carvings of dancers on the ancient Indian monuments give me goose bumps every time. Who would have thought that dance would connect me so deeply to India, to my culture, and to my heritage? The dancing bells that I put on are a part of my Indian identity, and Bharatanatyam lets me proudly remember who I am.

Bharatanatyam is very important to me because it is a piece of the puzzle that makes the inner core of my personality. Learning this ancient form of dance is a privilege. Even though I live in the 21st century and thousands of miles from India, I have had the honor of learning Bharatanayam in the United States. The dance teaches me perseverance and dedication; understanding and emotion; grace and precision; expression and devotion. It has given me a connection to my religion and to my heritage, and an insight into myself.

Sushupta Gouri Srinidhi is a student of 12th grade at Smoky Hill High School in Colorado, USA. She learns Bharatanatyam from Usha Muralidharan, Abhinaya School of Dance.

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