1 001… the fi­nal dance

Post - - News - CHANELLE LUTCHMAN

ENOWNED dancer in­struc­tor Kr­ish Swamivel will re­tire from per­form­ing on stage af­ter his 1 001st ap­pear­ance.

“I have per­formed 1 000 times al­ready but my fam­ily and friends want to see me on stage one more time as a dancer and ac­tor, so I started pre­par­ing and will there­after re­tire to con­cen­trate on teach­ing dance and, my fi­nal chap­ter, to pro­duce a movie,” said Swamivel.

The 60-year-old Chatsworth res­i­dent told POST his fa­ther, Swamivel Pil­lay, had pushed him into the arts when he was young. “He was an ac­tor, play­wright and singer in the Tamil lan­guage. I con­sid­ered him an ace drama­tist, who lived and died for the In­dian cul­ture.

“He was also the first South African-born man to act in Tamil movies in 1961 along­side Si­vaji Ganasen.

“My fa­ther would train me by mak­ing me sweep the stage and wipe the chairs his au­di­ence would sit on and even­tu­ally, in 1968, he gave me the op­por­tu­nity to play the part of a lit­tle boy who would go to the neigh­bour’s house to bor­row sugar. I would also watch as my fa­ther taught dance se­quences to his act­ing part­ners and I would im­i­tate his style.”

How­ever, Swamivel’s dream of per­form­ing was shat­tered when his fa­ther died.

“When he passed away in 1969, I thought my craving for be­ing on stage had ended. How­ever, when my cousin, Ku­mari Am­bi­gay, re­turned to the coun­try the next year, she started a Bharatha Natyam, folk and film dance school, so my two sis­ters and I joined.”

The fa­ther of two said he had never been afraid to per­form as an In­dian dancer and his friends had never known he was train­ing as a dancer.

“They knew I was tak­ing part on stage, so they thought most prob­a­bly as an ac­tor. My dance guru taught me to be a male dancer and not to do fe­male styles. We rarely ap­peared in shows and other func­tions, so they (his friends) never had an op­por­tu­nity to see me per­form­ing.

“We were the gen­er­a­tion that never wor­ried about our In­dian cul­ture. They would bunk Tamil classes and go to the disco in­stead. And I would join them but I still main­tained my rich cul­tural his­tory.”

On com­plet­ing his school­ing ca­reer in 1989, Swamivel went to In­dia to learn the art of teach­ing clas­si­cal and folk dance.

In 1990, he formed the Kr­ish Swamivel Dance In­sti­tute as a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion with the in­ten­tion of pro­vid­ing youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in In­dian cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

“My pur­pose is to train the youth and adults to pro­tect our In­dian arts and cul­ture. I want to pro­mote mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and em­power the youth to con­trib­ute in any cul­tural pro­gramme.”

Swamivel has pro­duced most of the Chatsworth child dance stars like Leona Dean, Niven Moodley and Li­neshni Nair, who have now opened their own mod­ern dance schools.

Apart from be­ing a per­former and dance in­struc­tor, Swamivel is a play­wright and stage di­rec­tor.

“A mem­ber of the com­mu­nity of St Stephan’s saw my per­for­mance on stage when I acted in Ku­mari Am­bi­gay’s

and he in­vited Pon­niyen Selvie me to di­rect the

Black Mes­siah (a pas­sion play).

“Later, I trav­elled with the group to King Wil­liam’s Town to a con­fer­ence held by the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment and was a room-mate to Steve Biko.

“He showed me how to heat a tin of breyani and we would both eat to­gether from a big plate. He would tell me to start a black theatre group in Chatsworth and I took his ide­olo­gies and started a theatre group, Joint Art Cul­tural Move­ment, where we would per­form cul­tural plays and comedy skits at func­tions and cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

Ear­lier this month, over 200 of Swamivel’s stu­dents per­formed at the Wild Coast Sun Trop­i­cal Nites Theatre for his school’s 27th an­niver­sary.

When asked how he kept up with his per­for­mances, Swamivel said he had a scrap­book with tickets for all the shows he had per­formed in. He had also kept notes.

Swamivel per­form­ing at his 999th show at Ra­jput Hall in Chatsworth in 2015.

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