My mother, My dance
- Jothi Raghavan
December 27, 2016
My mother… my dance… I can’t separate one from the other. I dance because my mother wanted me to. I am living her dream. As a child, I resented having to learn dance which ate into my playtime... Little did I know that this would be the greatest gift that she gave me. Now, I cannot imagine my life without dance. Bittersweet indeed.
Born and brought up in Srirangam in a conservative family, my mother could not learn dance formally. But dance was her passion. She got married early and settled into the role of a wife and a mother before she was twenty, but her love for dance kept growing. She finally had the opportunity to learn dance from Guru Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai at the ripe old age of twenty-one! She performed her arangetram which was a great accomplishment for those days. Once I had my arangetram, we performed together as “a mother and daughter team.”
She was my friend, guide and philosopher. Though brought up with conservative values, she was a strong believer of women’s rights. My production ‘Kanya’ was inspired by what she stood for. She was not around to see it but I am sure she would have been very proud. Kanya says, “Do not put me on a pedestal, worship me as a goddess or treat me as a mindless toy and toss me aside. I am one with flesh, mind and pitfalls - a human, mortal, equal. I am Kanya – Woman.” She was that! My mother, my inspiration!
She passed away almost thirty years ago – when my career as a teacher /choreographer was starting to blossom. It was a huge blow but I feel her presence constantly. She continues to guide me from within. She was with me in Boston that summer – the summer of 1987. I was performing every weekend. She was very sick - though her heart was giving up, her spirit was high. She would braid my hair, make sure the lighting was perfect and sit in the front row to watch me perform over and over. She died that October with the satisfaction of seeing my daughter dancing as little Shakuntala in my dance production ‘Shakuntalam.’
We celebrate forty years of my dance school Nrityanjali in 2017. It’s a celebration of dance that was passed on to me by my mother. When I see mothers who sit through many hours of their daughters’ dance lessons, living vicariously through their dance – I see in their eyes, the passion that I saw in my mother’s. If not for her, I won’t be here celebrating this milestone.
Jothi Raghavan is a Bharatanatyam dancer/teacher based in the Greater Boston area. She has performed extensively in India and the United States. As a performer and choreographer she has received many awards which includes the prestigious Choreographers Fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts. Jothi Raghavan has been training students in Bharatanatyam since 1977 in her school Nrityanjali and has conducted over hundred arangetrams.
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