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by Sapna Rangaswamy, Baroda

Jun 2001

I met Amma after a long time. So elegant and so picture perfect...she was my idol since childhood. I was 4 years old when I joined Darpana as a student...I remember Amma used to walk down from her bungalow to the dance umbrella in one hand, a big red colored bindi and neatly draped sari...she would fascinate me...I didn't want to be like her, I wanted to be her... Surprisingly, when I talked to her, I found I was so much like her!! The words were on my lips and she was doing the talking..

For how many years have you been dancing?
-Since my previous birth.

Do you believe in birth and rebirth?
-Yes. Because in my family people were in a very different profession than mine. My father and brother were advocates; my sister joined Shubhash Chandra Bose in the independence struggle while I chose to dance.

Your Gurus..
-I learnt at Kalakshetra. My Gurus...Mutthukumar Thatha, Gauri Amma and Rabindranath Tagore. I spent many years at Shanti Niketan under his guidance. I spent enough time in Indonesia to join a palace dance class in Jakarta.

When you dance, you portray characters from mythology and folktales. While playing those different characters, do you remain a dancer who is just performing a story or do you become that character?
-While dancing, I lose myself in it and it happens whenever I dance...

Do you get disturbed or disgusted when some people in the audience yawn and talk or drink Pepsi and eat popcorn...
-Never. I told you, I lose myself in my dance. I never notice those things and it never bothers me. I don't dance to get their applause, I dance for myself.

How different a dancer than other ordinary mortals?
-Not only dancing, any other art will make you a very special person. Dance opens the third eye of a dancer like Lord Shiva; she sees and feels life better than any other person.

When did Darpana happen? Who was the first student?
-In1949 I started with two students.

What is most required to become a dancer?
-Most required to become a dancer is your dedication towards the art and your patience. You cannot learn dance or any other art overnight.

Do you think today's MTV generation really care to learn such an old art form? Aren't they confused?
-Nowadays people are not dancing, they are acting. The spiritualistic part of the dance we have now lost somewhere on the way. That is why we have stopped teaching dance at Darpana!! Darpana is now a professional company of
performing art.

Even in this MTV time, many people are learning classical dance you think these people will preserve the art?
-I am not sure about everybody but some of our students are very serious. They are doing their best to preserve this ancient art and spreading it. Look at Mallika, through her dance she is fighting for other people's rights, she is spreading awareness among people.

What else can dance teach a person?
-That you should tell are a Darpana student, you are talking to me so confidently, you know the meaning of life, you know why you are in this world and above all you look so happy. This is what I teach at Darpana. My students don't need a stage to dance.... they dance while cooking in the kitchen, they dance when they bring up their children...and turn them into a beautiful human being.... they dance throughout their lives and carry on dancing even in the next birth... Everybody cannot become a famous dancer but those students who are really eager to learn have achieved happiness in their lives and that is my greatest achievement.

"Darpana Academy of Performing Arts"
Mrinalini Sarabhai
Usmanpura, Ahmedabad 380013
Ph: (079) - 7551389