A professional Bharatanatyam dancer with 15 years of experience, Kiranmayee has been performing for more than four years. But when people suggested that she perform on an international level, she wondered how to do it. Through sheer hard work and perseverance, and with her guru’s blessings, Kiran got the chance to perform in London – and see the UK while she was at it!
“It started with an invitation from the Nehru Centre in London, the cultural wing of the Indian High Commission,” Kiran tells us. “I was thrilled to be performing at such a prestigious venue, especially since I’d never travelled outside the country before.
“In fact, I often shot down suggestions from friends that I ought to study abroad or work overseas for international exposure. Deep inside, I knew dance would take me places. London was like a dream come true, but my UK tour also included performances in Birmingham, Yorkshire and Lancashire.”
The experience was one big adventure for Kiran, who travelled alone in a place where she had no close relatives or friends. This forced her to take full responsibility for her stay. “I felt like a globetrotter ready to discover the country for what it really is,” she added. But it was a relatively short trip – just 20 days – and Kiran could only cover England along its north-south axis.
“While the Nehru Centre gave me the opportunity to discover London, Birmingham allowed me to connect with my roots, as I performed at the largest Hindu temple in the UK. In Yorkshire, I performed extensively in Halifax and Leeds, with demonstrations and workshops at several schools. In the neighbouring town of Preston in Lancashire, I was warmly welcomed by the Indian community for yet another performance.
“I also visited a quiet, beautiful town called Folkestone, with a lovely pebble beach and pristine waters that lead straight to Paris (in case I decided to hop on a boat!). I was also fortunate to visit another town up north, Blackburn, where I conducted a small lecture and demonstration at a local church. It was about how Bharatanatyam transcends the borders of religion, language and culture.”
During her tour, Kiran made a number of friends who ensured a smooth journey and made her feel right at home. “I felt extremely blessed throughout my journey. I was comfortable in these people’s homes, and thankfully I never missed out on home-cooked food! But I did venture out to explore the traditional English favourites like fish and chips and the full English breakfast!”
“A few moments stand out, such as when I spotted a picture of my guru’s guru, T. Balasaraswati, framed and displayed proudly outside the venue I was performing at in London. I was 7,000 miles away from home and away from my own guru, Hemamalini Arni, who’s always spoken so fondly of her legendary teacher. It was a proud moment to witness – a reminder of my dance heritage.” She was also interviewed by BBC Radio Leeds about her tour and the workshops and performances conducted in Halifax and Leeds in collaboration with the Annapurna Indian Dance Company.
“I noticed that the UK was a place of rules, where one needs to align oneself with those rules in order to contribute to the smooth functioning of society. Simple things like following traffic laws, standing on the right of an escalator, and adhering to queues are followed to the T. These are definitely good habits we can adopt in India. It’s quite ironic how we often break rules to save time, yet delay not just ourselves, but everyone around us!”
Kiran feels that 20 days was too short a time to really experience England. “Especially a place like London, leave alone the entire country. During my workshops in Yorkshire, we spoke a lot about the Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War fighting alongside the British. It being the 101st anniversary of the start of the war, the topic was a major part of our workshops. I wish I could go back to London and spend more time at the war memorials.”
..... Devashree Goenka