Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why I Dance

(Helee Johry works and lives in Toronto.)

I started learning Bharatanatyam when I was 5 years old. I remember at that age not being interested in dance and also being very scared of my Guru. He used to scold us and I was really afraid of him. At one point in time I refused to go to class but my mother persuaded me and would come and sit in the class and watch me dance. I was never interested in anything related to dance while growing up, not even Garba. I performed my Aarangetram when I was 12 years old which was like a mini wedding. Studio recordings, costume rehearsals, photo shoots, family friends coming over in the nights to help with decorations! I did not necessarily understand what the fuss was all about. It was after I did my Aarangetram that I truly started liking dance, something changed in me. I started looking forward to Garba and also learning dance. There came a period in life when I could not learn or focus much on Bharatanatyam but did perform in university dances, garba etc.

I forgot all about Bharatanatyam but always felt that dance was an important part of my life. Any form of dance would take me to a happy place. Life happened to me where I got married, focused on my career and building a family. I was always trying to learn some form of dance – be it salsa, ballroom dancing and took lessons in Toronto.

At one point in my life I came in touch with an old contact who directed me to my current dance teacher. I decided to give Bharatanatyam a try again. I was very rusty with no grace, had forgotten almost everything about Bharatanatyam and it would be embarrassing sometimes to have to struggle so much to dance! Luckily I had a patient teacher who did not run away and I loved my rusty dance. Slowly but steadily I came to a point where it was not embarrassing to dance anymore and I noticed that every time I dance (right or wrong), it made me very happy. Dancing took me to a point where it was just about me and my dance. At that time I was not a mom, a career professional or a wife – it was me and my dance.

Dance now means a lot to me – any form actually. I never realized these things but I gravitated towards anything dance related - Zumba which is a dance based exercise, ballroom dancing (where my teacher called me a natural!), Bharatanatyam, Garba. I guess I did not choose to start again but it has been more like dance has come back into my life or it never left my life but was a bit dormant and is now active again.

- Helee Johry

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