"Dance can't be a hobby, it has to be your life," says dancer Padma Menon, who returned from Europe to start afresh back home.

Ms. Menon, who worked in Australia and the Netherlands for almost 20 years, decided to return to work from an Indian context.

She believes that dance can help create balance and harmony in life.

It is this perspective that prompted her to develop a technique integrating training programmes from different parts of the world.

Ms. Menon teaches the technique called `Dhuman' to women "to help them empower themselves" at the Mudra Centre for Dance on Ravipuram Road. "Training systems from the West as well as from the Indian classical dances are integrated in the creation of this system," she says.

A native of Thrissur district, Ms. Menon grew up in Hyderabad and Chennai where she was initiated into dance. She began learning Bharatanatyam and Kuchupudi. She soon became a disciple of Kuchupudi maestro Vempati Chinna Satyam. She learnt Kuchupudi at his Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai from 1975 to 1987. She also performed all over the country.

In 1987, Ms. Menon moved to Australia to do an MA at The Australian National University, specialising in Elizabethan Theatre. She established the Padma Menon Dance Theatre, which was initially known as Kailash Dance Theatre, in Canberra. In 1998, she left Canberra for Sydney where she studied postmodern techniques and theatre direction.

In 1999, she moved to the Netherlands where she continued to work as a dancer and teacher. She also undertook postgraduate studies in choreography. "That was the time I wanted to work in Europe," she says. She studied the techniques of classical ballet and learnt the training methods based on Laban Movement Analysis. She also did her Masters in Choreography from Rotterdam Conservatory of Music and Dance.

However, she decided to return home so that she could work in classical Indian dance traditions from an Indian context. "I realised that if I wanted to work with Indian dancers, I had to come back," she says. "Anywhere else, it would be just exotic."

The connection between dance and spirituality found in Indian classical dances is already present in India, she says.

She believes that dance can be a dialogue between the dancer and the spectator. "This is a process of sharing."

Dhuman aims to integrate the mind-body balance and to express the inner reality. Or "the difference between what you think is real, and what is really real," she says.

The first anniversary of Mudra was celebrated recently with a dance performance led by Ms. Menon.

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