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Dance is a way to celebrate life, says Umaa Sathya Narayanan
It is her passion. It is her obsession, too. Dance has been a life teacher for her. Life is too short, she feels. Not surprisingly, she is keen to make the most of it. Meet Umaa Sathya Narayanan, a disciple of Smt. Chitra Visweswaran. In an interaction with www.carnaticdarbar.com, she talks about dance, life and what not.

How long have you been learning dance?
I have been learning dance since the age of six (from Mrs. Sreemathy of Nagur). Now, I am learning dance from Smt. Chitra Visweswaran. So, it has been almost 23 years!

What has been the experience of learning from your guru?
Learning from a legend like Smt. Chitra Visweswaran has been an experience of a life time! I feel honoured to be learning from her. She is an epitome of creativity, intelligence and spirituality, all put together! She is a visionary.

Why do you learn dance?
It gives me immense happiness, confidence, peace of mind and, to top it all, a spiritual uplift. How else could one celebrate this beautiful life (this body) that God has bestowed upon us? Life has to be a celebration. I feel dance is a way to celebrate it!

I believe you have learnt vocal music as well.
Yes. Actually, I had learnt music as a child from Mrs. Rajeswari of Nagpur and got the CCRT scholarship in music when I was 10-years old. When I came down to Chennai in pursuit of this art form, I was embraced very lovingly by Chitra akka and Viswesh uncle into their lovely lives. And, dance and music became 24/7! I got the chance to learn music from Viswesh uncle. He was a great guru and a bundle of knowledge. He was well versed in many genres of music. Since I was busy with my dance career, I could never take vocal music up as a solo performing career. But I did train under him for dance music especially, which is a genre by itself! It is very challenging to sing for dance. Viswesh uncle and Chitra akka opened a whole new world to me by training me, taking me along to all the performances around India and abroad. It has been a great experience.

Why have you not pursued vocal singing the way you take up dance?
As I had said earlier, I was busy performing all over and also teaching. Hence, main stream singing took a back seat. However, I am looking forward to taking up music also as seriously as dance, God-willing!

How do you strike a balance between your dance and family life?
Before I got married, I was 24/7 into music and dance. I was hardly at home. My parents have been the biggest support for me (in fact, they left everything and came down to Chennai with me the moment I wanted to move to Chennai). I would really like to thank them. I got married to Shri Sathya Narayanan, a banker. I am lucky to have the support of him, my mother-in-law and the whole family. They are very accommodative. I love spending time with the family. I somehow try and make it a point to spend qualitative time with them.

Are you learning dance by choice or compulsion?
It can never be a compulsion for me. It is my life. It is neither by choice nor compulsion. It is a passion and an obsession.

How does it (learning dance) help you in day-to-day life?
Learning dance (dancing itself) is like multi-tasking. When one dances, there are umpteen other things one has to concentrate upon - like the space on the stage, expressions, emotions, lights, make-ups, the audience, orchestra et al. So, a dancer has to be aware of everything around her. In life too, you become accustomed to handling many things at a time. It is a discipline that helps one to get disciplined in life as well.

Are you learning it as a hobby or planning to be a professional dancer?
Well, I think I am already a professional dancer (I took it up as a profession almost nine years ago). For the past year or so, however, I have been out of the performance scene because I took a break and had my first baby.

Learning dance – has it helped you to change your personality?
It has brought a lot of discipline and clarity of thought in me. Of course, it has given confidence. It has definitely helped me to deal with bad patches in life with ease. It has given me mental strength to endure anything (thanks also to our spiritual guru Mathaji Vithamma, who has been a key person in making me realize that dance is beyond just a profession and that it gives one inner strength and capacity to withstand any sorrow in life).

What is your aim as dancer?
My aim is to dance (if possible sing too) in all the prestigious festivals in India and abroad. For, life is too short and one has to make the most of it. There is so much to be attained. One Janma seems very less!

What it takes to be a perfectionist-dancer?
Dedication, devotion, perseverance, honesty, hard work, discipline and sincerity!

Do you think that dance gets adequate support from the society at large?
I would say a big `NO’. Considering the amount of support a sportsman gets, an artiste (a dancer) doesn't really get support as much as he/she deserves. The way things are going and the way people are aping the west under the guise of modernization, dance is not getting the strength and support it needs from the society.

Is dance (I mean Bharatha natyam) an elitist art form?
Yes, it is elitist to quite an extent. This is because it has a lot to do with 'rasanai' (appreciation), which not everyone is endowed with. Even to appreciate Bharathanatyam, one needs to be gifted. It is a very refined art form. One needs to have a taste for it.


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