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My experience at the Nalanda Nrithyotsava 2007
- Aishwarya Narayanaswamy, Chennai

April 6, 2007

My new year started off on an auspicious note when I was invited by the Nalanda Dance Research Centre, Mumbai to participate in their Nrityotsava-2007. This annual dance festival is part of the prestigious international event, The Mumbai Festival, and is held to nurture and showcase the talent of young performers from across the country. From a large number of applications, a panel of experts short listed 17 dancers at a national level from various dance styles namely Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Mohiniattam. I was fortunate enough to be one of those.

My performance was scheduled on 20 January, 2007. It felt strange to have to participate in such a huge competition without my Guru Anitha Guha being present. Due to prior Season commitments and her busy schedule, she could not accompany me on this trip. Now, I'm sure all of you will agree that performing with your Guru beside you for support is a morale boost. But this time, that was not to be. I was apprehensive, but she sent me off saying that her blessings were with me. A huge responsibility had fallen on my shoulders now. I had to prove myself without my Guru being present to cheer me on and controlling the show with her Nattuvangam.

The performance time allotted to each participant was half an hour. We had to use this time optimally, ensuring that there was a good mix of Nritta and Abhinaya. Our intention was to bring out the best in me and at the same time give the audience the feel of a complete performance in terms of content. In a style, where a Varnam alone would usually last 30 minutes, this was indeed a challenge! After some discussion, we zeroed in on a Mallari, two Padams and a Thillana. We felt this would give variety as well ample scope to showcase my talent. Another challenge that we faced in the preparatory stages was the lack of time to rehearse. We had been so caught up with our shows for the Season, that by the time we were ready to start on this, we realized that we were left with just about a couple of days. We had to still choreograph the pieces that I would be performing! With little time on our side, we rehearsed day and night. In fact, I had to rehearse en route from Chennai to Mumbai and at the hotel in which we were put up.

And then the D Day finally arrived. When I got ready and reached the venue - the Amphitheatre, Bandra Fort - Mumbai, I was in for a pleasant surprise. I hadn't expected to be performing in an open stage with a picturesque beach as the backdrop. The setting sun added to the beauty of the scene. There was a huge audience consisting of Mumbai Gurus, dancers, critics and the general public. I was excited. I was also nervous. By the time I went on stage to perform, I had gone through a hundred different emotions with varying intensities. But once I set foot on the stage, I was calm. I had to focus on giving a good performance. With a light, cool breeze blowing on my face throughout the show, I successfully completed what I had set out to do. It was an exhilarating experience. I had done my best. Winning was not in my hands now. I knew from the response and appreciation that I got after I concluded my performance that I had managed to put up an impressive and entertaining show. That was a victory in itself.

As we were returning to Chennai the same night, I didn't get an opportunity to watch all the other participants. However, I did see a few very good performances. I came back with the satisfaction that I had done well and it had been a unique experience to talk about to my friends. After a few days, I received a letter from the Nalanda Dance Research Centre saying that I was one of the 7 dancers who was going to be awarded the title 'Nalanda Nritya Nipuna.' I was elated. All the effort and hard work had brought a fruitful result.

I very humbly place at the feet of my guru Anitha Guha, this title 'Nalanda Nritya Nipuna' which is conferred upon me by the prestigious Nalanda. It is very heartening to see an institute like Nalanda making the effort to provide a good opportunity to youngsters like me.

Aishwarya Narayanaswamy is a disciple of Anitha Guha.

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