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
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).
■ 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.