Waaaay back then, my mom enrolled my sister and me into all sorts of extra-curricular classes – Art, Music, Dance – and the only lessons that I loved were those dance lessons I attended weekly.
Being Singaporeans of South Indian descent, I guess it was only natural that our lessons were in the classical South Indian Dance called Bharata Natyam. This dance form originated in Tamil Nadu, which is the southernmost state of India and its roots go all the way back to the Sangam age (the period between the 3rd century BC and 4th century AD) which is the classical period in South Indian history.
As you can see from the photograph, my attire consisted of a bright pink sari (very securely tied and pinned so that it wouldn’t unravel during the vigorous dance movements), some costume jewellery and a pair of anklets. My grandfather had purchased the anklets and jewellery specially from Tamil Nadu. You can’t see clearly from the photograph, but my short hair was pinned back into a tiny bun with a jasmine garland wound around it. I’d just performed my first ever dance, called the Alaripu, which is always the first dance performed as it is an invocation to the Gods to bless the ensuing performance. Usually when a dance school showcases its dancers, the youngest/beginners are the ones who do this dance. As you can see by my grin, I’m feeling quite exhilarated after my dance – if I recall that night correctly, I was on a high the rest of the night and well on to the next day!
I am standing on a platform erected specially for the dance performance by my dance school in the assembly hall of a Hindu temple. Temples usually invite such dance schools to perform during Hindu festivals, and the dance program lasts for at least an hour. This is probably a continuation of the tradition of Devdasis who were the original temple dancers and who spent their life in the service of the temples they were tied to. The performances are of course free for the public and temple devotees. This is a hall specifically used for dance and music performances, for you can see the Nataraja relief on the wall behind me. Lord Nataraja (who is a manifestation of Shiva) is worshipped as the Lord of Dance so it is only appropriate that he is present.