In conversation with Bharatanatyam danseuse Saroja Vaidyanathan

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Yoshika Sangal | August 31, 2015 | New Delhi


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(Photo courtesy: Inni Singh)

Saroja Vaidyanathan is a well-known Bharatanatyam danseuse, choreographer and author. She is the recipient of several awards including the Padma Shree in 2002 and Padma Bhushan in 2013. She was also awarded the Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman by the Delhi government apart from the Kalaimamani title and Sangeet Natak Akademi award. She was conferred the title of ‘Bharata Kalai Sudar’ in 2006. She has authored several books on dance and music. She has received worldwide acclaim for her dance recitals and repertoire, and has been teaching performing arts for the past four decades. Her institute, Ganesa Natyalaya in Delhi, propagates the ancient Guru-Shishya tradition. Her recent works include a Bharatanatyam segment for the XIX Commonwealth Games opening ceremony and compositions on Tagore’s poems as part of the poet’s 150th anniversary celebrations.


My favourite TV shows: Crime Patrol and CID


The person I admire the most and why:
Prime minister Narendra Modi. According to me, he is the first politician who is simple and disciplined. Rarely have I seen a person at the top doing social work. Maybe, one day people will realise his value


The thing that drove me closer to dance: Teaching it. I had stopped performing after my marriage because of family pressures. I was limited to being a daughter-in-law or mother. Therefore I established my school and started teaching


If I were not a dancer: I would be a singer of Carnatic music


My favourite quote: My father used to say, “Don’t go after money. Money creates pressures. Believe in truth and God.” He is my idol and I always follow him


Happiness to me means: Working for dance


My most prized possession: I don’t have anything. Things will come and go. I believe in me


Dance to me means: My soul and heart. It’s my life


My favourite production: ‘Dance Drama Pradosham’ based on ‘Shiva’ and ‘Shabari’ from Ramayan


Other than dance, I am passionate about: Gardening. I connect with my plants as if I am talking to them


My fitness regime: I get up at 4 am and do yoga every day. I have a balanced diet. And I don’t eat roti and rice.


My idea of comfort food: Paneer and curd


My advice for aspiring dancers: Be patient. Patience is lacking in this generation. This art is a tapasya


Dance reality shows are: Amazing to broadcast new and unknown talent as opposed to only four or five top dancers known to the world. These shows encourage various forms of dance and are elevating the cultural field


The high point in my life: When I was given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Padma Bhushan


And the low point in my life: I have had many low points in my life. It was very difficult for me to balance my family life and career. I had to maintain my family’s prestige as well as my ambition of dance. At home I was a doormat, and at my institution I was a celebrity


My weakness: Pakodas and playing cards


I want to be remembered as: A good human being. I don’t see anything bad in anyone and I have no enemy. Otherwise, I don’t think anyone remembers anyone permanently

 
(The interview appears in the August 16-31, 2015 issue)

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