This Spanish dancer is in love with Bharatanatyam

Spanish dancer Monica de la Fuente is passionate about Indian classical dance forms

March 16, 2019 02:50 pm | Updated March 19, 2019 05:28 pm IST

Kozhikode, Kerala, 15/03/2019: Monica De la Fuente, Dancer.Photo: S.RAMESH KURUP/THE HINDU.

Kozhikode, Kerala, 15/03/2019: Monica De la Fuente, Dancer.Photo: S.RAMESH KURUP/THE HINDU.

Like any tourist from Europe, Monica de la Fuente came to India with the intention of exploring the country. Little did she imagine that would keep returning to India - the young Spanish woman had been bowled over by Bharatanatyam.

“On my first visit to India, in 1994, I had watched Alarmel Valli's Bharatanatyam at the Khajuraho Festival and I was fascinated,” says Monica, who was in Kozhikode recently for a Kathakali adaptation of Spanish classic Don Quixote . “I fell in love with Bharatanatyam and wanted to learn it.”

So she applied for a scholarship from the Indian government to learn Bharatanatyam. “I got a six-year scholarship from the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations),” she says. “I learnt Bharatanatyam for three years at Kalakshetra, Channai, and then Kathakali for one year at Kerala Kalamandalam.”

She soon found out that she enjoyed Kathakali. “I was at Margi, Thiruvananthapuram, for three years,” she says . “For my arangettam, I had essayed Bheema in Kalyanasougandhikam ; if I had done Draupadi, she would have looked taller than Bheema,” she smiles. “I think it is fascinating for a woman to explore the energy of a male character, just as it is for a man to play female characters, something Margi Vijayakumar does with such perfection.”

Vijayakumar played Sancho Panza in the Kathakali adaptation of Don Quixote . “He is a wonderful actor, who imparts so much to the characters he plays,” says Monica. “I am not acting in this production, though; I am an assistant director.”

Her latest performance on stage is as Mary Magdalene. “I have choreographed it in contemporary style, but liberally borrowing from Bharatanatyam,” she says. “When I perform Bharatanatyam back home, I adapt mystic poetry for my shows. That way I could communicate to my audience better.”

She feels Bharatanatyam allows her that freedom. “Bharatantayam is such a fascinating form of dance,” she says. “There is a lot of technique to it, but you could interpret it in different ways. I also like the abhinaya aspect of it. I was fortunate to learn abhinaya from Meena Raman, a disciple of Kalanidhi Narayanan, the great guru.”

She says people appreciate Bharatanatyam in Spain. “It is not pure Bharatanatyam that I usually perform; I mix it with a bit of contemporary dance,” she says. “I feel Bharatanatyam is such a great form of dance that it should be taught in every school in Spain.”

As for Kathakali, she finds it a complete art form. “The language was of course a problem, but I got the text of the plays translated,” she says. “I sought help from writers like Ayyappa Paniker.”

It is not just Kathakali and Bharatanatyam that loves to watch from among Indian dances. “There are so many fascinating forms of dances in India,” she said. “Besides the classical dances, there is an astonishing variety of folk dances as well. And that is something you won't find anywhere else in the world.”

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.