Dance Dance

Surupa Sen: ‘He painstakingly taught us every aspect of his art’

Four-year-old Surupa Sen

Four-year-old Surupa Sen  

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Renowned Odissi dancer and director of Nrityagram, Surupa Sen admits to being strongly influenced by V S Ramamoorthy

Surupa Sen was all of four and her sister Sangeetha, six, when they started training under guru V S Ramamoorthy in the 70s. “I would watch and observe my sister learn initially, and he seemed very strict and larger than life,” recalls Surupa. Delighted as she is of her first guru’s 100th birthday celebrations, Surupa reminiscences of her association with the legendary guru from whom she learnt Bharatanatyam during her formative years.

Can you recall your days as a student of guru Ramamoorthy?

He was a stickler for perfection. I remember how he used to draw two parallel lines with chalk on the floor and sit right behind them as he taught. We had to sit in aramandi (a half-sitting position, with bent knees) within those lines and had to practice the basic steps within that two-line limit without wiping them off. It was to teach us how to dance with a perfect turn out. Never got over that!!

Though he painstakingly taught us every aspect of his art with relentless scrutiny in class, outside of it, he was deeply loving and cared for each of us, individually making sure that we were looked after well, especially when we travelled for performances with him. His wife — mami as we called her — was so much part of that love that we received. So grateful to them both.

What made you shift from Bharatanatyam to Odissi?

My father was an army officer and he was transferred to Bengaluru (then called Bangalore). So we went with him. I started learning Odissi in Nrityagram much later — at the age of 20. I had fallen in love with the Odissi form in the very first moment that I saw it.

Any specific guidelines and teachings of Ramamoorthy that you carry with you in your larger role at Nrityagram?

The reason for my passion for dance and the pursuit of excellence comes from him and Manju didi first, and thereafter from all the great gurus I have had the opportunity to learn from. Master and Manju didi planted the seed in me. I have them in my mind every single day as I bow to any guru who sits in front of me as I dance. Their honest and generous gift of their art and their single-minded dedication towards it as they practice and teach, has influenced me largely in the way I conduct myself here in Nrityagram too. They will remain an intrinsic part of my dance journey all my life. I sincerely wish them the very best and pray for their blessings as I go forward.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 5:56:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/surupa-sen-he-painstakingly-taught-us-every-aspect-of-his-art/article30360118.ece

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