A seven-member dance troupe from the Netherlands and Suriname was in Chennai recently to perform Bharatanatyam at the Mamallapuram Dance festival. Five of them traced their ancestry to India. The Dutch dancers of Indian descent said their great grandfathers travelled to various countries in search of better opportunities.

Madhoerie Jagmohan, who led the troupe, said she forayed into Kathak in the late 1970s. She later learnt Bharatnatyam from a teacher in Bangalore and there was no turning back. Soon after her arangetram (maiden public performance), she set up a dance school in the Netherlands.

All members of the troupe lead an active professional life back home. Leonie Schalkelaar, who performed at Mamallapuram last year too, works in a rehabilitation centre for adults who have suffered brain damage in accidents. Surayda Mahboob, a third generation Indian who traces her ancestry to Agra, is a doctor involved in the “healthcare needs” of children. Sadhana Mohan, a fourth generation Indian from Suriname, specialises in law and manages finances in her father’s company.

Jade Yang Man Peters, Chinese by birth and adopted by a Dutch couple, fell in love with Indian dance after a friend introduced her to “Bollywood dances.” After seeing a Bharatanatyam performance, she joined Madhoerie’s school in Suriname. She hopes to head a project that would help improve the lives of Indian farmers.

“We work for the Ministry of Tourism and travel across Scandinavian countries to promote India,” said Aartie Jagmohan, who runs the dance school her mother started in Holland.