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Learning Bharata Natyam in Delhi: our colleagues

Once upon a time, a long time ago (no, really, the story spreads between 2003 and 2008 in my case), in a land far far away (this one is easier to guess: Delhi, India) there were quite a few young damsels who had come to study Bharata Natyam. These are just a few memories from classes and performances together with Asha Ponikievska (Poland), Aleksandra Michalka-Singh(Poland), and Vaidota Alsaid (Lithuania). We had other colleagues like Sayo Oshima (Japan) and  Ria Soodeen Bachan but they were with us for a shorter period. There were of course, many local students, beautiful talented girls who became friends (In the photo below there is Priya, but there were so many others, surely not forgotten).

We had several things in common: the same teacher ( guruji Jayalakshmi Eshwar), we were coming from the same part of the world (mostly Europe), we were in our early 20s after having graduated colleges in different subjects. We all had a passion for Bharata Natyam and had undergone extensive efforts to be able to pursue it full time, and we had all come to India as ICCR scholarship holders.

This photo features, starting from left: myself, Marta, Asha Ponikievska, Priya Bhaskaran, Sayo Oshima, Alexandra Michalska Singh and Vaida.

While we had an underlying competition sense (we all wanted to be the best we could be, and perhaps better than all the other dancers), we still developed a strong connection given by our common passion  for the art form and also by the inherent challenges of adapting to life in a completely different setting. 
It\’s now quite a few years later and here we are, all of us in different parts of the world. Dance continues to be our unifying factor across the map. 
Many a times, we met in the same beautiful bright classroom to learn more dances, whether it was too hot (most of the year) or too cold (in the few winter months) or too humid (in the monsoon). Delhi weather is not particularly forgiving, indeed I used to joke that the weather in Delhi is so wonderful… for at least 5 weeks of the year. But I also remember that one really grows to love the city, for despite the weather (with which one grows accustomed in a year), the space vibrates with an unmatched intensity: there are always so many cultural events, most of them free which is rare even compared to other places in India. Another thing that always fascinated me there was the simultaneous existence of so many different worlds, so different from each other, between Old and New Delhi, center and distant suburbs, even between several houses on the same street. But of course, the biggest draw to the place was always the dance, and part of it was always the classmates. 
Here also with our Guruji, smt Jayalakshmi Eshwar.
During those beautiful years spent practicing dance, sweating and learning and then enjoying a samosa and chai together after the class, Delhi and Mandi House had become our home. While it was not our homeland by birth, it certainly felt that way to me and I was always surprised when people  perceived us as outsiders. Looking back now, of course we had come there from places other than India, and we did not spend a lifetime there. But in a way, in a magical yet simple way, there was a lifetime we spent loving dance, making it our way of life. We look outside the window now, and together with the cloudy spring weather and the once again green grass, I know there\’s a way to bring that almost forgotten warmth here… and the magic of dance. 
Off I go to practice some more. Time to get ready for Spring! 
And to dear Asha, Vaida, Ola, Sayo, and all the others, here\’s a virtual cup of chai! 
On stage at Kamani auditorium as part of ICCR festival for International Artists in India, from left: Vaida, Ola, Anca and Asha

After the Kamani performance with smt Jayalakshmi Eshwar, other artists and ICCR officials

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