Every year, a handful of aspiring dancers travel to Rabindra Bharati in the heart of Kolkata, to expand their knowledge and versatility in dance. Three young dancers from Bangladesh recently travelled there to get their academic degrees on Bharatanatyam, one of the most esteemed dance forms in India. Maria Farih Upama, Arthy Ahmed and Mita Biswas took part in a performance titled “Vaishnorghyam” at the end of last month.
The Daily Star caught up with them after the performance, to learn about their past, present and futures as dancers.
Tell us a little about your backgrounds.
Upama: I began learning at the age of three from Anisa Sultana, and in 2011, I started learning Bharatanatyam from Belayet Hossain Khan at Chhayanaut. Since receiving the ICCR scholarship, I have been taking formal Bharatanatyam training from Smt Sujata Ramalingam.
Arthy: I began with Manipuri at Chhayanaut under Sharmila Bannerjee, and Bharatanatyam under Belayet Hossain Khan. I also trained with Shadhona under Amit Chowdhury. I have also learnt other forms like aerial, jazz, Raibenshe and contemporary.
Mita: I began dancing at Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts (BAFA) under Ummey Tahmeena. I began Bharatanatyam lessons under Kosturi Mukherjee. I got the ICCR Scholarship to study engineering initially, but I couldn't detach myself from dance. My first guru in Kolkata was Bappa Chatterjee, and now I am learning under Smt Sujata Ramalingam.
When did you travel to Rabindra Bharati for further education, and why did you choose Bharatanatyam?
Upama: I began my education here in July 2016. I was searching for a greater meaning behind my love for dance; it was a spiritual journey for me. And Bharatanatyam suits my spirituality.
Arthy: From an early age, I decided to learn and complete my higher studies in dance. I applied for an ICCR scholarship in 2011 right after finishing my HSC and gained it for the 2012 session.
Mita: I came to Rabindra Bharati in July 2016 and began my Masters in Bharatanatyam. From when I started to learn the meaning of dance, the only form which that appealed to me was Bharatanatyam.
You were among the four dancers for “Vaishnorghyam”, held in Kolkata. What was this performance about and what did participating in it mean to you?
Upama: We all travel here, learn and then go back to our countries, but our Guru wanted it to be a more meaningful journey for us. We performed a Pushpanjali, an Alarippu, a Kirtanam and a Padam. There was a special performance, Dasaprana, by our Guru. We finished with a Thillana.
Arthy: “Vaishnorghyam” is a story of four people surviving in a foreign land, and expressing their love for dance, and for each other. It is a story of us, crossing all the obstacles to fulfil our dreams.
Mita: The show was a dream coming true for us. We wanted to present our love for the art form. Through this show, we learned that we all share the same dream, and that we are lucky to be a part of each other's dreams.
What are you future plans as dancers and how do you plan to use your new-found expertise?
Upama: I aspire to become a full-fledged classical dancer. I also want to teach. But I don't want to say much about what I want to do, and instead show people how far I am capable of going.
Arthy: I am one of the few students from Bangladesh who completed their Bachelor's and Master's education in Dance. I would like to spread my knowledge as far as I can, especially for the talented children outside Dhaka.
Mita: Dance is such an ancient art form, and yet a lot of its beauty and integrity has gotten lost with time. I was to re-establish that ancient integrity and purity, and spread it among all the new dancers.