Mis-Steps…My Boringly Long Journey In Trying To Learn New Things For The Wrong Reasons.
[Post dedicated to fellow blogger Megha who gave me this blog prompt and made me write about long suppressed memories…so dear readers, both praises and curses (the most probable when you get to the end of this post) go to her account].
My very first memories of attending dance class (classical dance)- the earliest scars on my still tender psyche, one might term them- were when I was around 7 or 8 when a dance teacher, called colloquially as a natuvannar used to come home to teach dance to my sister and I was press-ganged into joining the class because my sister insisted on having company. My mother who was a big fan of actor kamalhasan in those day, was under the mistaken impression that an early start to my dance career would endow me with enough skills to reprise the salangai oli kamalhasan role in later life. Although unsuspectingly forced into learning the classical dance form bharatnatyam, I nevertheless stuck on with it for almost two and some years learning to not only pretend-dance to jathis and varanams but also giving rise to talk at home (to my absolute horror and nightmares) of an individual arangetram soon enough. But of course like all good things which come to and end, we moved houses away from the locality and with that all talk of my continuing my classical dance career were dropped from the family round-table discussion. After all these years the abiding memories I have of learning bharatanatyam are the sharp and painful taps on the toes by the jathi-kattiay (two sticks played on a wooden board) which the nattuvanar used to beat time to keep with the rhythm of my dance movements. The rest are lost to memory.
After a long period of staying away from dance, I finally had to return to dance school during my college undergraduate days as I wanted to escape college by attending any and every cultural programs hosted by other colleges. The easiest way to do this was to join the dance troupe, stand in the last line and just wave my hands and stamp my feet. Or so I thought. But the humiliation of being trounced again and again in successive cultural s and the deep seated feeling that I was making a foll of myself in font of crowds of screaming girls (almost all of them more good looking than the girls at my college) made me opt to learn western dance forms this time on. I went and enrolled in the neighborhood dance school signing on for hip-hop classes which were the in-thing during those years. For those not in the know this was in the middle 2000’s when western dance or any dance at all had not yet taken off in everyday popularity like they did later on due to manada mayilada and all those TV dance programs with fat price purses. Those learning western dance in those days ( I specifically exclude Tamil film dance as done by Kala master and troupe which I will talk about later on) were a sort of elite bunch segregated into different schools. I joined swingers run by prasanna master and very soon I was be-bopping like there was no tomorrow. And as a sidelight we ( I include myself only marginally in this broad we as it was mostly my dance school mates) often used to get into fights with a neighboring dance school boys- the famous JB troupe- John Brittos class. If you have seen any of jackie chans old kung fu movies you will have a fair idea of the dance school rivalries and consequent street fighting between students of different schools. Worse, I had a couple of close friends who had opted to join JB but as I was a swingers boy we had no option but to meet on the battlefield to defend our dance schools reputations. Of course both prassana master and britto master must have known what we boys were up to from time to time but they preferred to turn a blind eye to our youthful spirits. I suppose I showed a little bit of talent in hip hop for I was invited to join a professional troupe of hip hop artistes and even went on a few shows with them. But again studies called and I had to abandon hip hop to sit and study for my undergraduate degree.
After finishing college, and getting into a reasonably well paying job the dancing bug again bit me and this time I opted to learn a dance form which suited my age- Latin- salsa, meringue, bachata, cha-cha and all those smooth moves. In those days the only school which taught these dances was the academy of modern dance at cathedral road run by kokila ma’am (who to my constant surprise every time I run into her somewhere- still looks exactly the same as she did when I was a young kid learning from her)- a bit of a long commute for me right across the city. But hey when you want to learn from the best distance is just a minor irritant right? Besides the primary attraction of learning these were they weren’t done in a group but as couples only moves. I thought it would be a good way to meet some single girls and start dating them in addition to dancing and I did do double duty- which experiences I will share later on but let me finish about the dance first. The thing about Latin dances are that you not only have to move gracefully and smooth (with a lot of hip thrusts) but also need to constantly make sure that you are in sync with your partners timings as otherwise both of you will end up looking clumsy and foolish and staring at different directions for the same movement. So a prime requisite for any Latin dance is a partner who moves with the same rhythm as you do. And in this I was tremendously lucky. More by luck than by design , as we were constantly switching partners and trying to find the right one to suit us, I happened to run into a girl who was pissed off by being rejected by another accomplished dancer who had judged her as not good enough to partner him. She wanted to prove a point to him and luckily our rhythms coincided and we hit it off as a pair. Pretty soon we were inseparable on the dance floor as we could both fluidly move as one without a single misstep. It was all hunky dory and going well until I made a mistake (typically) by enmeshing my personal and dance lives together my dating my dance partner. Suffice to say that it was a complete disaster and prompted my disappearing from the dance class to save myself from a irritating and persistent stalker who was immature enough not to take a no for a no. Lips sealed.
So after all these years whenever I see a dance competition on TV or hear a bit of peppy music automatically my knees start wriggling by themselves but thats the extent of my let loose and dance like nobody is watching feeling. I always rein myself in, smile wryly at myself and get on with everyday life. Those days are far behind me now and I can only look back fondly on them in my dotage.
p.s. I did try out Kala master’s kalanjali natya school once- to try and learn our local tamil filmi style dubbakanthu style of dancing- I lasted exactly one week there (although I had paid one months fees in advance) – before I realised that my taste in dancing didn’t run into kuthu and savu molam ishtlye. I have never repeated that experiment again.