From being a rebel, Aneri now a Mohiniyattam lover

Most children when initiated into something – rebel, Aneri Sheth too was no different. Coming from a Gujarati household, Aneri’s mother enrolled her in Mohiniyattam classes under Guru Mandakini Trivedi, who happened to be their neighbour. In conversation with Natyahasini, Aneri says that it was due to her mother’s insistence to learn one classical dance style for some years that she was enrolled into Mohiniyattam. “I had no idea of Mohiniyattam at that time. Guru Mandakini Trivedi was teaching Mohiniyattam, and being our neighbour, my mother enrolled me in Nateshvari Dance Gurukul. As a child and student, I was quite difficult and stubborn. My immaturity and ignorance prevented me from seriously pursuing dance. I rebelled as I did not want to learn Classical Dance. But as I grew out of my teens, the style grew on me,” says Aneri.

The dancer says that she soon started to fall in love with the swaying and subtle movements of Mohiniyattam and today simultaneously also learns Saraswathi Veena. “I stopped rebelling and started to slowly get into the practice of the style and trying to understand what my Guru was teaching. Watching my seniors like Ms. Miti Desai and Ms. Shivani Gupta, who have also taught me, really helped to deepen my understanding of dance,” she says. 

Speaking about her dance school, Nateshvari Dance Gurukul, in Mumbai, which is run by SNA Awardee, Smt. Mandakini Trivedi, Aneri clarifies that though it is not Kalakshetra style of gurukula, but the guru-shishya parampara is very much in practice. “The traditional classical dance is seen as sacred worship which is passed on from one Living Guru to the students. Further, senior students assist the Guru and learn Nattuvangam and take classes of the younger students under the Guru’s watch, to understand and become more aware of the different aspects of the performing arts,” says the petite dancer. 

In admiration of Guru Mandakini Trivedi, Aneri says she is one of the few people who has understood Indian Classical Dance in its truest form and not only practices it, but also lives it. “She believes in Classicism as a value system that delves not only into art but as also reflected in life. She teaches dance not as a movement aesthetic of a particular style but also constantly makes us aware of its roots in culture, religion and philosophy,” she says. The Mohiniyattam dancer says that Guru Mandakini Trivedi is a multi-faceted personality as a performer, choreographer, teacher, author of three books – ‘Sutras on Dance’, ‘Yoga of Indian Dance’, ‘Ananda Yoga’ and co-author of ‘Nepathya’, who is also chair-person of Shaktiyogashrama Gurukulam along with Nateshvari Dance Gurukul.

Nateshvari’s principle: Explaining Nateshvari’s principle of roots of Indian dance in Yoga and as science of self-growth, Aneri says that according to her Guru, Classical Indian Dance is parallel yoga, that requires very high amount of mind, body, intellect and emotional integration. “It is a very high vision that one must constantly persevere to attain, through constant practice, study and understanding dance not only as a movement but through its allied arts as well. Because this vision requires that amount of study, practice and awareness, dance becomes a tool for the overall development and growth of the individual,” she says. 

Though Aneri hasn’t performed live before Hyderabadi audience, she performed in the Parichay series hosted by Muvva Nritya Raaga Nigamam. “It was a pleasure to perform for the Parichay series, purely because of its pure intention and love for all classical dance styles. The heavy influence of the entertainment industry has produced a young ignorant population that is completely unaware of India’s rich Performing Arts culture. As the name suggests, to introduce different classical Indian dance in a series of small videos is interesting and keeps the audience informed as well as engaged,” says Aneri. 

Performing across many cities and in Dance Festivals, the Mohiniyattam dancer agrees that the opportunity to travel to Rajasthan for SPICMACAY, as an assistant to her Guru, was interesting. “SPICMACAY’s relentless effort to spread Indian Classical Dance through the country is commendable. And their target audience are the school children which will be the future of this country tomorrow. This effort to make the young children aware of their roots and culture is what made performing and assisting so much more interesting,” admits the dancer with a smile. 

A recipient of the Kolkata Centre of Arts Fellowship for 2021-22, Aneri says: “This is for my research in dance, emphasising on the influence of the Goddess in the Kerala Performing Arts. It is a one-year fellowship that will help with research and study. Studying the different aspects of the allied arts will help me understand Mohiniyattam in a different light,” she says. 

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