Moritz Zavan Stoeckle is all excited about his maiden Bharatanatyam performance

Passion, dedication and focus are required for perfecting any art form. He has them all but faced his own challenges. Born to European parents, Italian Moritz Zavan Stoeckle was introduced to Bharatanatyam in Venice when he was ten. Little did the shy boy realise that one day he would explore that artistic world.

As a young child, Moritz visited an ashram where he made friends with some children there. When he heard that they were coming to Venice for a dance workshop, he joined the workshop so that he could meet them. It was here that Moritz was introduced to Bharatanatyam by London-based classical dancer Savitry Nair. Confessing that he was unaware of the art, he says, “I really enjoyed the rhythm and energy of the dance. Savitry Amma was warm and dedicated to teaching foreign children.” For three years, Moritz attended workshops twice a year conducted by Savitri and learnt the adavus, Alarippu, one jatiswaram and a padam.

A chance meeting with American Bharatanatyam artist Maresa Moglia helped him understand that even a foreigner can go deep into this art. Says Moritz, “My mother was supportive. I decided to come to India and learn from a male guru. After graduating from school, I took up a job and saved my earnings.”

In 2005, his dream came true. With the help of the London-based artist Anusha Subramaniam, he connected with the veteran Bhagavatulu Seetharama Sarma in Chennai. Sarma trained him in nattuvangam. Moritz says, “I wanted to learn nattuvangam as it would help improve my rhythm sense. But I was still searching for a male dance teacher.”

Within three months of his first visit to India, he was introduced to Professor A. Janardhan and C.K. Balagopalan, who taught him his first varnam and keerthana. From then on, there was no looking back and Moritz made short trips to India to master the art from his gurus. Meena Raman also worked on his abhinaya.

His extra effort at understanding the Hindu culture and mythology is evident as the Italian talks about the connect between Lord Siva, Vishnu and their devotees. According to him, Bharatanatyam talks about life. In order to understand the nuances of the art, he has visited various temples.

The year 2012 was lucky for him as he won the audience prize at the Gd’Art Veneto dance competition. “I choreographed and performed a blend of Bharatanatyam and a contemporary style. It was well appreciated and that was encouraging.” Soon after the competition, Moritz decided to go ahead with his solo arangetram the following year in the foundation where he was introduced to the art. Under the guidance of the inimitable Mavin Khoo, he became one of the first few Italians males to perform a Bharatanatyam recital in Venice. “The audience connected with the abhinaya and enjoyed Jayadeva's Ashtapadi. I want people to understand that this art form depicts stories and situations which are universal in nature.”

Moritz has been training for the past three months for his maiden solo show in Chennai. The repertoire comprises a Mahesha Tandavam (Tandavesaha), a nritya composition on Siva, jatiswaram in a rare raga, Niroshta, the Chalamela varnam in Nattakurinji, a padam, an extract from Sundara Kandam, and Valaji thillana.The orchestra will be conducted by Bhagavatulu Sri Seetharama Sarma. The guest of honour is Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar from whom Moritz has learnt.