1 001… the final dance
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.