A dash of Broadway, ballet’s pirouette, some contemporary dance… friends Maria Roy and Arunima Gupta want to introduce people to a fresh idiom of dance.

Young and beautiful, Maria Roy and Arunima Gupta believe in dance. They have discovered themselves through this medium, they declare. “Dance is meditation, it is the soul, it is the mind, it comes from within, it is liberating…”.they say in unison. The two are set to open a contemporary dance studio, ‘The Floor’, in Giri Nagar in mid-May. Preparations are complete in their chic, wall-to-wall mirrored red studio with wooden floors and yet the two perfectionists feel that “lots more has to be done.”

Stint at Broadway

Maria, 25, studied at Palikoodam in Kottayam, a school that encouraged her to pursue dance as a profession. “I was a shy girl in school,” she says. It was a visiting dance teacher from the Martha Graham School in New York who changed her view towards dance and life. “It was a completely different experience. I suddenly found myself,” she says acquiring the confidence to move ahead. In 2006 Maria won in an audition contest from among 5,000 contestants to bag a role in the film Notebook. Offers for films began coming her way but the Economics graduate longed to dance.

In Kochi she studied Bharatanatyam under her guru Shyamla Surendran of Dharani School, where she “unlearned and then learnt the Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam.” She moved to Winchester in England and pursued a three year course in contemporary western dance and theatre. It was a vast syllabus, a “synthesis between academics and performance.” She studied subjects like dance writing, production skills, western African dance, dance for camera and choreography.

Her final year project on Indian contemporary dance was one of the most popular performances. Next was a six month stint at Broadway Dance Centre where she trained in western contemporary styles like hip-hop, street jazz and musical theatre. “I became a tough, thinking dancer,” she says exuding poise through her large kohled eyes.

Arunima, 36, has danced “ever since” she was three. Kolkata was her training ground.

She has been in contemporary dance since the age of 12 and started performing since the age of 16. She speaks with passion about her gurus, Manjuri Chaki Sircar and her daughter Ranjabati Sircar who started the Nava Nritya School of contemporary dance in Kolkata. “Their idea was to create an Indian contemporary dance vocabulary,” says Arunima who has done small productions with dancer Anita Ratnam in Chennai. Later Arunima opened her dance school ‘Aangik’ (body language) in Hyderabad before she came to the city. Kochi is not new to her for she has lived here earlier and has performed here too.

‘The Floor’

It is destiny that has brought them together on ‘The Floor’, say the two.

“We met once at a dance recital and then kept bumping into each other at different venues. It was as if destiny was drawing us together for this purpose,” they say happily about a venture that will give full flow to their dancing desires.

“Indian dance does not have stretches, falls, release techniques. Pointed toes are an alien concept,” says Arunima explaining that the will fuse the western with the Indian elements in their dance. “We use the grammar of Indian dance- the arimundi of Bharatanatyam, the tribhanga from Odissi, styles from Chau and kalari. There is so much similarity between ballet and chau. The brahmiri in Odissi and the pirouette of ballet are similar,” explains Arunima who has performed many times at the Konarak Dance Festival with The Dancer’s Guild, her guru’s company. She had the opportunity to conduct workshops and run the company along with other senior dancers. It enabled her to learn production. “I caught their line of thinking. They were way ahead of their times in dressing, in expression, in vocabulary.”

Dance and fitness

Arunima brings all this to the ‘The Floor’. Maria brings in the flavours of Broadway. And the two together are ready with a fresh, innovative dance idiom for all who wish to take this route to discovery.

There are seven different kinds of programmes available to choose from at ‘The Floor’. There is Basic Ballet for kids between ages 6 -12. There is Hip Hop and Modern Jazz. Contemporary dance will include yoga, martial arts, kung-fu, kick boxing and a good concoction of Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Odissi, Chau and Kathakali.

An all-western dance will be a separate programme. There are programmes related solely to fitness too. A gentle, morning session of yoga and tai-chi and a high powered party workout of Zumba are available as Arunima is a certified Zumba expert. A Taekwondo weekend session and dance therapy too are on the syllabi.

“Dance is for everybody. It builds, it heals, it enhances…it helps one discover oneself,” say the two dancers poised to take the first step. For details contact thefloor.cochin@gmail.com