Michelle Jose, disciple of Guru Santhosh Kumar Thamang and Shree Narayani Natyalaya, who recently performed her Arangetram at Shilpkala Vedika on 30 April 2022, speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, says: “Words can’t express the rush of emotions I experienced just before going on stage! It was a mix of nervousness and excitement. But when I came backstage after performing the first composition, I knew I could do it,” she says. The young dancer sates that she was totally immersed in the music and connected to it with a lot of passion. “It was just me dancing to the music. I enjoyed every bit of it. The next thing I knew, I was receiving the certificate of completion of my Arangetram. It dawned on me after the event that I had indeed achieved a milestone,” says the youngster.
Sharing her practice session experiences for the Arangetram, Michelle says she can never forget the practice sessions. “Every day, we used to practice for more than three hours. By the end of each session, I would be drenched in sweat in the searing heat of March and April. However, the encouragement that I received from Mama and my family kept me going. I especially loved the rehearsals that I had with the music ensemble. Their energy and passion made the entire dance experience even more exhilarating,” she says.
Boosted Memory: A Class Xth student at Delhi Public School, Hyderabad, Michelle acknowledges that the rigors of the dance practice have instilled in her a sense of discipline and focus, which helps her to excel in academics as well. “Bharatanatyam has boosted my memory skills and logical thinking ability. I still remember an instance way back in 2019, when I had to appear for a term exam just a day after performing at Shilparamam. I managed to do very well in the exam and got the top score in my whole class. Being in Class 10 now, does require a lot more focus on studies and there will always be the additional pressure. It is dance which helps me to stay focused and it also relieves a lot of the stress. I will continue to pursue this divine art,” says the bubbly teenager.
Michelle agrees that performing solo shows gives one an opportunity to demonstrate how much they are involved in the art form. “It requires a lot of focus and dedication. Performing in a group is also a beautiful feeling. There is a certain chemistry among all the dancers, and this pushes each one to do their best. It’s almost magical how the sounds of our ankle bells resonate in perfect harmony,” she says. The dancer is extremely happy when she dances with peers, who have become friends for life. Be it a practice session or a performance on stage, we always feel energized by the camaraderie,” she says.
Favourite Compositions: Shree Narayani Natyalaya student loves all the dance compositions she has learnt so far. “My favourite compositions include Thillana in Senjuriti Raagam set to Adi Talam composed by Veena Sheshanna. I always experience a surge of energy while performing the intricate footwork in this composition. However, it’s Jamuna Kinare in Pilu Ragam composed by Maharaja Swati Tirunal that holds a special place in my heart. While performing this composition on stage, I felt that Lord Krishna was right there. The bliss that I experienced at that moment was something which I cannot express in words,” says Michelle.
On her initiation into dance, Michelle reveals that everyone loves dance and music in the family, and it clearly rubbed off on her. “Even as a toddler, my attempts to match steps with music beats was received with huge applause at home, and I was also encouraged to sing hymns that I still love to do. It was my mother who recognized my interest and wanted me to get into an art form early on,” she says. The youngster got to know about Shree Narayani Natyalaya at Doyens Colony through a family friend, and also, this was closer home. “That’s where I was initiated into Bharatanatyam at an early age.”
Energising Environment: Michelle says that the moment she stepped into the Kuteeram, she knew she wanted to come here over and over again. “The energizing environment, along with Mama’s pleasant demeanour and his moral and cultural ethics had a deep impact on me, which further motivated me to pursue this art form,” she says. The youngster says that if not, Bharatanatyam she would have probably pursued contemporary dance, which would have also helped her build stamina and gain flexibility. “Bharatanatyam has given me all of this and much more, and hence I feel truly blessed to be associated with this divine dance form,” she divulges.
The Delhi Public student says that her Guru believes that hard work is the only way to success and there is no shortcut. “He is the living embodiment of how hard work and persistence can lead to perfection. His insights into the history of the art form inspires me and my peers to strive for perfection. Apart from teaching the nuances of this divine art, mama has taught me about values like discipline and respect. Training under him has helped me find a balance between my co-curricular activities and academics,” says the Xth grader.
Michelle says she will continue to learn and practice under the guidance of her guru Santhosh Kumar Thamang and is very excited to begin the next chapter in her dance journey.