Natalia Butyrskaya’s passion for Bharatanatyam keeps her rooted in Chennai

This story has nothing to do with elaborate James Bond-type plots, but instead with Russian Natalia Butyrskaya’s love for Bharatanatyam.

Since she was a child, this Moscow-born has been connected with India. After a five-year stay in Delhi while her father worked in the Russian Embassy, in 1994 she joined her father in Chennai, where he was posted.

What she thought would be a short stay just to see her father’s new home, turned into a four-and-a-half-year-long romance with Bharatanatyam.

Having seen several unforgettable performances in Russia, especially those during the ‘Year of India in USSR’ exhibition in 1987, Natalia’s fascination with the dance intensified on her second trip to India as an adult.

She decided, on the advice of a French friend, to visit Meenakshi Chittaranjan’s dance school in Mylapore. Although the teacher told her the dance form was very difficult, and that she couldn’t guarantee that Natalia would be able to perform, she joined immediately. And, ended up staying longer in Chennai than her father. She continues to study dance to this day.

Natalia’s arangetram was in 1997 at the Music Academy, and her father was in the audience. Although she left Chennai and went back to Moscow to study Tamil and Oriental Literature at Moscow University for five years, Natalia returned three years ago to work at the Russian Consulate.

Her work hours (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) give her enough time to go to dance classes, practise, and attend performances.

“I never get tired of performances. The more you watch, the more you want to see and understand,” Natalia says.