For the love of dance

By Poornima Koonath
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Sagarika Venkat

Bharatanatyam is a way of life for nine-year-old Sagarika Venkat

Dancing is always connotated with joy and happiness. “She danced for joy”, or “she is so happy, she has a spring in her steps”, are all commonly used expressions because dancing is quite instinctive. But to take up a form of dance and to keenly learn all the fundamental nuances of that dance form asks for commitment, discipline and a whole lot of hard work. Mastering footwork, moves, and routines does not happen overnight, it involves hours of dedication, practice and repetitive learning until one is thorough. And ultimately, dance becomes a way of life. Dance has become a way of life for nine-year-old Sagarika Venkat, daughter of Manjula Viswanath and Venkat Parthasarathy. And with her mother being a famous and accomplished dancer herself, dancing came quite naturally her.

Though professionally Sagarika’s foray into the world of dance started when she was six, even as a toddler she grew up with dance and to the sound of the dance anklets. And so it is not surprising that at this very young age she is already one of Australia’s best and upcoming dancers in her age group.

Sagarika’s chosen dance form is Bharatanatyam, an ancient dance style from South India, known for its grace, expression, spirituality and sculpturesque poses. Be it a cold winter day, a hot summer day, a wet rainy day or a long weekend, when girls her age are making plans with their friends for a play date or sleep overs, Sagarika is ready in her practice tights and costumes, to accompany her mother to regular practice sessions that are three to four hours long. All her weekends are completely dedicated to Bharatanatyam. Her mother Manjula believes and has inculcated in her daughter that, “Practise does not make you perfect but removes imperfections.”

A student of her mother’s Rasika Dance Academy, Sagarika, by the age of seven was dancing with her mother, matching every complicated step and feeling every rhythm in her body. Sagarika has travelled and performed alongside her mother in venues all across Australia, California (USA), and South India. Manjula has always believed that, “Dance is our heritage passed down by our gurus.” Sagarika has surely and steadily realised that dance is not just an art form. She has seen dance taking her confidence to the next level with a natural boost to her self-discipline. She has seen a sharpening in her leadership skills and is quite comfortable speaking in front of large audiences. Soon dance as a way of life started to make sense as she was learning about arts and about life. Two years ago, she participated in her mother’s dance production that helped raise over AUD 20,000 for charity and she hopes to continue supporting charity using dance as a platform.

A year 4 student of Matthew Pearce Public School in Baulkham Hills, Sagarika has learned to balance both her Bharatanatyam and her studies very well. She believes that dance has taught her time management and discipline. Learning Bharatanatyam has enhanced her acting skills too and she finds it easy to emote expressions as it is an integral part of her dance routines. She plans to take up acting as one of her careers in the future. “But I’d like to continue dancing, maybe as a teacher or even as a professional, and give back to our society,” she says.

The year 2019 is special year in the life of Sagarika, the dancer. A third generation Australian Indian, she is one of the youngest to feature in her debut solo, rendering complex dance items for two and half hours. She is all set to perform “Her Dream”, her debut solo performance in Bharatanatyam on 18 May with a supporting ensemble of musicians from India and most importantly choreographed by her mentor and mother Manjula Venkat. When asked about this, the nine-year-old says, “Believe, and you have won half the battle.”

Later this year Sagarika will also be touring India for more performances across Chennai and Bangalore.

 

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