For the love of Bharat­natyam

HOME AWAY FROM HOME City of­fers a stage to a group of Ja­panese homemak­ers to ex­plore and ex­press their cre­ative side through Bharat­natyam

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - News - Kankana Roy Jain ■ let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Tak­ing their love for In­dian cul­ture a step fur­ther, a num­ber of Ja­panese women in the city are learn­ing Bharat­natyam.

Mayumi Shinkai, 40, says the dance form has brought a lot of pos­i­tiv­ity to her life. Her friend Asako Ki­tazawa says, “To­day, I can­not imag­ine not prac­tis­ing Bharat­natyam.”

Touch­ing the teacher’s feet, per­form­ing the tra­di­tional na­maskaram and mov­ing on to be­gin the re­hearsal for the day, Mayumi Shinkai and Asako Ki­tazawa tran­si­tion from one grace­ful pos­ture to the other ef­fort­lessly. Their faces are like the can­vases of ev­er­chang­ing ex­pres­sions, a light smile here, a slight frown there; their eyes be­tray a pen­e­trat­ing gaze at one mo­ment and a coy glance at an­other. Their hands and feet dance to the beat of the guru’s voice with fo­cus only on ex­e­cut­ing the in­tri­cate move­ments of the Bharat­natyam rou­tine flaw­lessly.

Mayumi and Asako are among the many Ja­panese women re­sid­ing in the city, who have de­vel­oped an affin­ity to­wards the In­dian cul­ture and em­braced it with warmth and can­dour.

Mayumi, 40, a home­maker who has been learn­ing Bharat­natyam for more than three years, said an­i­mat­edly that she loves the dance form and it has brought a lot of pos­i­tiv­ity into her life. Mayumi and Asako are friends and live on Golf Course Road. Asako, also a home­maker at 39, is rel­a­tively new to the dis­ci­pline but says she is en­joy­ing ev­ery bit of it. “I used to learn Fla­menco in Ja­pan and I was told that the ori­gin of Fla­menco is in In­dian tra­di­tional dance. I was sur­prised, in­trigued and thrilled. I wanted to learn more and more about In­dian dance forms and that’s how I started tak­ing Bharat­natyam classes. To­day, I can­not imag­ine not do­ing or prac­tis­ing Bharat­natyam,” she said.

Gurugram and parts of Delhi have a vi­brant and thriv­ing Ja­panese pop­u­la­tion. The large num­ber of Ja­panese women opt­ing to learn Bharat­natyam is a mi­cro­cos­mic ef­fect of the greater as­sim­i­la­tion of th­ese two cul­tures of the east, say mem­bers of the Ja­panese com­mu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Em­bassy of Ja­pan, there were more than 900 Ja­panese busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments in Delhi and Gurugram in Oc­to­ber, 2017.

Yuko Hirowa, 42, is a home­maker who re­sides in South Delhi. She has been learn­ing Bharat­natyam for five years at Ganesh Natyalaya. She said, “There is some­thing new to learn in Bharat­natyam ev­ery sin­gle day. Ev­ery time I watch some­one dance, it’s like an eye-opener for me. It’s an end­less learn­ing process and an art that never stops sur­pris­ing you.”

They have been tak­ing their Bharat­natyam lessons from Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan re­cip­i­ent Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan at her school Gane­sha Natyalaya in Qu­tub In­sti­tu­tional Area, Delhi.

Vaidyanathan, who trains many Ja­panese stu­dents at her in­sti­tu­tion, said, “The Ja­panese are known to be deeply spir­i­tual peo­ple. That is one of the pri­mary rea­sons this an­cient dance form finds res­o­nance in the com­mu­nity. My Ja­panese stu­dents are ex­tremely re­cep­tive and show great pas­sion for the art. How­ever, they not only learn the dance but also qui­etly im­bibe the nu­ances of In­dian cul­ture such as never rais­ing their voice be­fore the Guru, touch­ing her feet and so on. They have re­mark­able dis­ci­pline and al­ways put in that ex­tra bit to achieve per­fec­tion.”

It is prob­a­bly this ded­i­ca­tion and pur­suit of ex­cel­lence that led Vaidyanathan’s stu­dent Kaname Tomiyasu, a Ja­panese res­i­dent of Delhi, to com­plete her Bharat­natyam Arange­tram (com­ple­tion of for­mal train­ing and on-stage de­but per­for­mance) at the age of 11.

“Arange­tram is a land­mark in the jour­ney of a Bharat­natyam dancer. It stands as tes­ta­ment to the fact that af­ter years of rig­or­ous train­ing, the stu­dent or shishya is fit to be pre­sented to an au­di­ence as a pol­ished dancer and is pro­fi­cient to a de­gree that she can also im­part train­ing to oth­ers. It is a source of great joy to us that Kaname com­pleted her Arange­tram this month on the same day that she turned 11 years old,” said At­suko Tomiyasu, Kaname’s mother.

Kaname and her fam­ily moved back to Ja­pan af­ter liv­ing in In­dia for more than seven years. Kaname started train­ing in Bharat­natyam in Delhi when she was four years old and she stud­ied in New Delhi Ja­panese School till March 2018.

Asako, Yuko and Mayumi said that it takes them a lot of prac­tice to ex­press the emo­tions and per­fect the moves, and that is what they find most chal­leng­ing.

Be­sides Bharat­natyam, Kaname is also ex­tremely fond of Bol­ly­wood dance and mu­sic, which is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Ja­pan’s love af­fair with In­dia and In­dian cul­ture.

Also liv­ing and lov­ing the In­dian cul­ture is Hisayo Ito, a 41-year-old Ja­panese res­i­dent of Gurugram. A for­mer Bharat­natyam stu­dent, Ito, who re­sides on Golf Course Road, had to give up danc­ing due to some phys­i­cal rea­sons but ad­mits that she re­mains com­pletely cap­ti­vated with In­dian cul­ture and ethos.

Asked if she misses her dance classes, she said, “Yes, I miss them a lot, par fir abhi main Hindi seekh rahi hu ji, aap mu­jhse Hindi mein hi baat karna (...I am learn­ing Hindi and I re­quest you to speak with me in Hindi.”

With that, she opened up about her life in the Mil­len­nium City be­fore sign­ing off with a part­ing mes­sage: “Dhanyawad, aapka din acha jaaye (have a good day).

PARVEEN KU­MAR/HT PHOTO

■ Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan im­parts Bharat­natyam lessons to her Ja­panese stu­dents at her in­sti­tute in Delhi.

■ Mayuni Shinkai has em­braced In­dian cul­ture with warmth and can­dour.

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