International Dance Day: Many late bloomers in Thiruvananthapuram are discovering the joy of dance

These women are rediscovering their inner dancer after a break. April 29 is International Dance Day

April 26, 2024 01:21 pm | Updated April 29, 2024 05:58 pm IST

Gayathri Nair (third from left in the front row) with the Dancing Battalion.

Gayathri Nair (third from left in the front row) with the Dancing Battalion. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Bhavana R Nair’s video of her gracefully moving her feet to ‘There was a ship that put to sea...’, won her many hearts when she shared it on social media.

 Bhavana R Nair

Bhavana R Nair | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Bhavana has always enjoyed shaking a leg. Workplace and household responsibilities often held her back from hitting the dance floor as much as she would have liked. Nevertheless, she made it a point to attend dance workshops regardless of the style. In her early forties, she joined a Kathak class led by acclaimed danseuse Monisa Nayak. Since then, Bhavana has been in step with her passion for dance.

“To learn to dance has been a long-cherished dream that I am living now. It has also been a therapeutic experience,” she says.

 Dr Kala Kishore 

Dr Kala Kishore  | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Kala Kishore, a medical practitioner, agrees dancing has been therapeutic for her too “but there is more to it,” she says. She was in love with dance and yearned to learn classical dance but her conservative family felt it was not suitable for “a young lady from a good family,” laughs Dr Kala, Associate Professor of Transfusion Medicine in Medical College, Trivandrum.

Her husband encouraged her to follow her heart and when she found a teacher in Aswathy Nair who was willing to give wings to her dream, she joined her class eight years ago to learn Bharatanatyam.

“It is not easy to practise a disciplined dance form like Bharatanatyam if you have not learned it in your youth. But I persisted and now I miss the stage if I don’t dance,” says Kala, who is now in her early fifties.

Gayathri Nair, another late bloomer on the dance stage, shares Kala’s opinion. Growing up in London, she recalls attending Bharatanatyam classes as a child. She could not continue her classes. In her forties, she enrolled for a dance class teaching free style dance. She rediscovered her twinkle toes and went on to become a part of Dancing Battalion, a city-based dance troupe.

The three women are part of a growing number of people in Thiruvananthapuram who are stepping it up by signing up for dance classes teaching different styles ranging from classical dance to cinematic style and Zumba, Kizomba and belly dance.

Shaju S Kumar, lead instructor at Dancing Battalion, Kuravankonam, says the trend has encouraged many men and women to get rid of their inhibitions and take to the dance floor.

“Until about two decades ago, Thiruvananthapuram was quite conservative about women participating in dance performances. Classical dance was accepted to a certain extent but there were many raised eyebrows when women began to perform cinematic dance,” he says.

No longer. Social media is filled with reels and videos of women dancing and winning applause. Right from a folk art form like Thiruvathirakali to Zumba and Mohiniyattam, there are women confidently owning the stage.

Gurus like Girija Chandran of Regatta were among the first in Thiruvananthapuram to welcome and encourage women who wanted to dance. A batch of mothers Girija taught wowed the audience with their charming Mohiniyattam recital.

Late bloomers moving centre stage is no longer a novelty. For some, dance is a fun way to keep fit while for others it is a way to make friends and rekindle old aspirations.

Kizomba and salsa instructor Karthik Rana believes that just moving to music releases serotonin and endorphins, mood changers that lifts the spirits. He insists that anyone of any age or gender, can dance, even those who feel that they have two left feet. Karthik says his workshops help would-be-dancers banish their fears about the dance floor and loosen up.

 Karthik Rana, organiser of ‘Let’s Kizomba’ in Thiruvananthapuram. 

 Karthik Rana, organiser of ‘Let’s Kizomba’ in Thiruvananthapuram.  | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“In Kizomba and salsa, where couples match steps in time to music, there might be participants who need time to get over their preconceived ideas about dancing together. Once they learn how to do it, they begin to find out how enjoyable it is to let the music flow through their body,” says Karthik.

In addition to learning an art, many dancers feel it is a wonderful fitness routine that helps them shed flab and keep the joints moving. Bollywood dance instructor Devaki Mohanlal at B Boiz, Ulloor, believes that her students, whose ages range between eight and 50, come for myriad reasons.

“The younger ones come to learn dance routines to perform in schools and colleges. Many seniors enjoy the moves as they feel it is more interesting than pumping iron,” says Devika.

There is no ageism on the dance floor and there are several health benefits when you learn a new skill, says Dr. Kala.

“Research shows that there is a marked improvement in mental well-being and social skills, which are also beneficial to the body, mind and soul,” adds Dr. Kala.

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