Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon: The story of a dancing couple

The duo open up about the joys and challenges of sharing life and stage.

April 23, 2024 04:36 pm | Updated April 24, 2024 02:22 pm IST

Shijith and Parvathy during a performance.

Shijith and Parvathy during a performance. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The young lad from Payanoor, who was being interviewed for admission in a prestigious cultural institution, was asked if he could sing. Much to the surprise of the interview panel, he promptly sang the film song ‘Kaadhal rojave’, instead of a classical composition. Any doubts that assailed him after that were put to rest when he found his name on the selected list the next day. Thus, Shijith Nambiar entered the portals of Kalakshetra, beginning a journey into the world of Bharatnatyam. He not only found his life’s calling here but also his soulmate, Parvathy Menon. Together they slowly made a mark in the world of dance.

Initiated into arts at a young age by his father, Shijith was a regular participant in cultural activities in school and college. Ridiculed for his penchant for dancing, Shijith felt demoralised. It was then that his father brought him to Chennai.

But the going was still not easy. Shijith was initially disheartened by the lack of opportunities for male dancers. Soon his talent and hard work brought him the much-needed recognition. After his training in Kalakshetra, Shijith realised the need to explore the art to find his own space and expression. “I began to choreograph compositions for my solo performances. It gave me immense satisfaction and joy.”

An admirer of G. Narendra’s work, Shijith was keen to learn from him. “I was delighted when Narendra invited me to play the role of Kovalan in his production of Silapadhikaram. More such memorable experiences came his way when he worked with the Dhananjayan’s and Leela Samson on their productions.

Even as he performed as a soloist, his career embarked on a new path with Parvathy. Speaking of the many changes that they had to adapt to, Parvathy says, “I was always a part of the Kalakshetra repertory and never performed as a solo artiste, so I could take to his ideas easily, but for him, after experiencing the freedom that solo performances offer, dancing as a duo was challenging. Over a period of time, we became comfortable sharing the stage.”

Life on and off stage

Life on and off stage | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shijith and Parvathy have devised ways to handle choreographic productions together. They have their roles clearly cut out. Ideation, music, lighting and costume are largely handled by Shijith. The two owe to the training at Kalakshetra for being able to manage various facets of a performance.

Talking about how they go about choreographing movements, Shijith says, “Earlier, we focused only on synchrony in our movements. But as we evolved as artistes, we have realised the need to accommodate each other’s ideas and make it appear seamless.”

The two believe in constantly analysing their work and improvising. “You have to keep observing and imbibing. Both are essential to keep up the creative spirit,” says Parvathy.

According to the couple, they are now at a phase when the pressures of performance have taken a backseat. It’s more about finding contentment and joy in the process and presentation. “We are also focusing on nurturing our creative space ‘Sakhi’. We always wanted such a space, where artistes could engage with each other and the art in a holistic environment. A space where the new generation of performers can confidently embrace creativity”.

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