Creative spaces Dance

One with nature

Inspired by the ambience Sharada Thampi at Kalaangan

Inspired by the ambience Sharada Thampi at Kalaangan  

Kalaangan is more than a dance school for Sharada Thampi, its co-founder

A small tile-roofed house in a vast compound, surrounded by coconut palms, mango, mangosteen, mulberry and other trees, creepers and shrubs, too innumerable to count. I am at Kalaangan, a ‘learning centre’ for dance and music, located near Golf Club, Kowdiar.

How can an artiste not get inspired in such a verdant ambience, asks danseuse Sharada Thampi, co-founder of the institute, along with Lekshmi Rangan. While Sharada leads the dance classes at the centre, Lekshmi takes classes in music.

One with nature
“We became friends on the youth festival circuit. Later, we worked together at Christ Nagar School, Kowdiar. It was then that we thought about starting an institution. We had our apprehensions because many warned us that it wouldn’t be easy for two artistes to get along because of ego hassles and conflict of interests. We opened Kalaangan four years ago and have never looked back. Initially, we operated out of a small space near Jawahar Nagar. A year later we shifted to this house. It was lying vacant for a few years. Whenever we both passed by this road we would wish that we could set up shop here. It is not easy to find such a sprawling space within the city. It is so quiet, sheltered from all the hustle and bustle of the city. Luckily, we got it on rent. The word Kalaangan stands for a ‘courtyard for arts’ and when we moved here, we realised that this place complements that definition,” says Sharada. In addition to classes in classical dances and Carnatic music, Kalaangan has classes in light music, veena and keyboard.

The classroom for music leads the way into the house. On one side is a pooja room that opens into Sharada’s creative space, the biggest room in the house. She opens the many windows to let the sunlight in. Red oxide flooring and high ceilings emphasise the expanse of the room. But for a photograph showing various mudras and a painting, the décor has been kept minimalistic.

It is here that she teaches the young and old. “I have many senior students, most of them working women,” says Sharada. She takes classes in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi. There are evening classes three days of a week and full-day sessions during weekends.

Sharada, a disciple of V. Mydhili, took to dance at the age of six. A regular at youth festivals at the school and college-levels, the petite artiste stresses that Kalaangan is not a place to churn out youth festival entrants. “Both Lekshmi and I ensure that students have a genuine interest, be it in dance or music. We also ascertain the attitude of the parents. There are many students who have learnt different items from different teachers just for the sake of competing in youth fêtes but most of them lack basic knowledge and so we have to start from the beginning,” she says.

With over 250 students on the rolls, they have little time to relax. “But coming here daily refreshes me. Just sitting here or being with students gives me so much of positivity. The children are also happy because most of them stay in apartments or houses with no play areas. So, once they finish the classes, many of them stay back to play. That is why we have put up 10 swings in the compound,” says Sharada with satisfaction in her voice.

Although much of her time is devoted to Kalaangan, Sharada finds time to give individual performances also. “Whenever there is a performance, it is here that I do the rehearsals. And if it is something new that I am performing, I seek the advice of my teacher, Mydhili. We come up with new productions for our anniversary,” says Sharada. A post graduate in music, she is now pursuing her doctorate in dance as well.

A recent addition to the centre is an open stage, a raised platform under the shade of a red bead tree (manchadi). “We take classes here. Every week, we organise performances by our students on this stage, so that they can overcome their stage fright,” she adds.

(A series that explores the workspaces of creative people in the city and its suburbs)

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 2:48:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/One-with-nature/article14435865.ece

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