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Dance like a man

Arjun K. S.  



The just-concluded Parampara dance festival of Soorya was dominated by dancing queens who reigned over the stage. The only male dancer in that lot was Kathakali artiste Pallippuram Sunil.

In most such dance extravaganzas, male dancers get left out in the cold or are represented by one or two dancers.

Nevertheless, in spite of getting few stages to perform, there are a number of male dancers who have opted to pursue dance as their career or balance it with a profession.

The capital city, known for its rich cultural heritage, has many such talented male dancers who are wining stages both within and outside the country. Youth festivals made them stars and some of them chose not to pull the curtain down on their dance moves. Dancers such as R. Arun Sankar, Gopu Kiran, Harikishan S. Nair, Arjun K. S. and Vidhun Kumar are going places with their feats on stage.

Bharatanatyam exponent Arun Sankar, a product of Kalakshetra, is a globetrotter. “I never wanted to another profession and my family supported me. Luckily for me, after I completed my post graduation from Kalakshetra, the then head of the foundation, Leela Samson, gave me the opportunity to teach there,” says the 34-year-old. He has worked in collaboration with dance companies in the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom, Singapore and Canada. “I am happy to have come this far because when I was put in a dance classes at the age of five I didn’t want to learn at all!” says Arun, a resident of New Delhi.

Gopu Kiran, meanwhile, divides his time between teaching in various institutions in the U.S. and his dance school in Chennai. He regularly performs all over India. A double graduate - in literature and Performing Arts, he started learning dance at the age of three. “A turning point in my life was watching a performance by V.P. Dhananjayan,” says Gopu.

A disciple of V. Mydhili and Girija Chandran, he moved to Chennai to hone his skills and also try his hand in acting, having acted as a child artiste in Malayalam movies. The training under the Dhananjayans polished the dancer in him and Gopu runs a dance school, The Kirans School of Natya, with his wife, Aashin, also a student of the Dhananjayans.

It is in Canada that Harikishan S. Nair is conquering stages with his dancing feet. A physiotherapist, he ensures that he is able to do justice to his roles as physiotherapist and dancer.

“It has been a challenge. But dance is my passion and driving force and survival without dance might create an imbalance in me,” says Hari from Toronto where he is the director of Regatta Kalakendra. Having covered stages in North America and other countries, he says: “Almost 300 shows in four-five years was a learning process for me.”

Then there are up-and-coming dancers such as Vidhun Kumar and Arjun K.S., who are ready for bigger stages. While Vidhun takes time out of his job at Technopark for his dance classes, Arjun manages to balance his engineering studies and dance classes.

“Dance enamoured me as a child and I wanted to know what pure dance is about. My family had doubts about whether I would be able to do studies and dance at the same time. But I finished my engineering without compromising on dance. Though I am from Pathanamthitta, I opted for a placement in Thiruvananthapuram so that I could learn from Mydhili teacher,” says 24-year-old Vidhun.

As for Arjun, dance is always the priority, but then having an income is important.

Being a male dancer is no cakewalk, they admit. It is still very much a woman’s domain, with male performers getting few stages when compared to female dancers. Getting labelled effeminate and often getting ridiculed are negative aspects the men have learnt to deal with.

“There are dancers who are effeminate but that is because of their sexual orientation. That doesn’t mean all male dancers are like that. Some people even say that if you are a dancer you may not get a wife! Well, there are umpteen examples to prove that wrong. As for performances, stages are lacking in Kerala, but there are amazing performers from the state who are doing well in Delhi,” says Arun.

Gopu insists that a good teacher can make all the difference. “The stigma of being called effeminate has a lot to do with the kind of training a dancer gets. A qualified teacher knows what to teach a male and a female performer. And if you are a skilled dancer you can easily portray both genders on stage,” he says.

Harikishan seconds that saying that times are changing for the better for male dancers.

With the city hosting many cultural events, the dancers are hoping for more stages, thereby giving them a chance to dance away to glory.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 5:35:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Dance-like-a-man/article16643772.ece

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