A dance school exclusively for the trans community opens in Chennai

The Sathya Sai Dance Academy helmed by Kerala-based Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust along with Sahodaran Foundation plans to offer free one-year dance classes in Bharatanatyam

Published - April 22, 2022 06:10 pm IST

Danseuse K Vanithasree

Danseuse K Vanithasree | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Danseuse K Vanithasree’s five-minute recital on Rama Natakam enthralled the audience at the inauguration of a dance academy for the transgender community in Chennai. The Sathya Sai Dance Academy helmed by Kerala-based Sri Sathya Sai Orphanage Trust along with Sahodaran Foundation plans to offer free one-year dance classes in Bharatanatyam.

A transwoman, Vanitha says that she was denied the opportunity to learn the artform only because she was born a male. “So many members of my community continue to face a similar situation. A dance academy is a great opportunity for us to learn and express our talent and make a career,” says Vanitha who now regularly performs the invocation dance at LGBTQIA+ community gatherings, government events and festivals. She has also enrolled for a Masters programme in Bharanatyam at the Tamil Nadu Dr J Jayalalithaa Music and Fine Arts College.

The dance academy also marks the organisation’s entry into Tamil Nadu. “We started a dance school in Kochi last month. Thirty six candidates are now learning from legends like Gayathri Subramanian and Gopika Verma. They have completed four classes already in Bharatanatyam and traditional dance forms of Kerala like Mohiniyatam,” says K N Ananda Kumar, founder and executive director of the trust.”

He adds, “Rarely do they get an opportunity to exhibit their skills. Post training, the group can form a dance troupe. They will be encouraged to perform at various programmes. Once they are well-trained, they can also teach dance. This will help them earn a livelihood.”

The classes will start from June 10 at Anita Guha’s Dance School in T Nagar. “We hope to begin with 10 trans women who are passionate and determined,” says Sunil Menon, founder of Sahodaran Foundation, a Chennai-based NGO working for LGBTQIA+ rights. “Our focus is health, advocacy and human rights and we work with the economically disadvantaged. We reach out to over 3000 people in Chennai to support their health requirements. We have provided technical support and expertise to many support groups emerging across the State. They tied up with us to access the community. Our role in the academy is to give them genuine candidates. ”

Sunil says most trans members have a natural flair for dance. “They love to sing, dance and perform as it gives a break from their rigorous lives. When we watch something on TV, we replicate it without any formal education or discipline on how to go about it. We formed a cultural troupe where we performed street theatre to create awareness on TB, COVID-19, road safety to name a few. They would get an income, but sporadic. A formal education in dance will give a great boost to the community.”

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